The company’s desktop virtualization product has added FlexCast, a delivery technology that promises to work on any device, along with enhancements to user experience and licensing changes

Citrix XenDesktop 4 takes on VMware’s View

Citrix on Tuesday will officially launch XenDesktop 4, software that will compete directly with VMware’s View by promising a way to deliver virtualization to any kind of personal computing device.

While most IT departments have been focused on virtualizing their server infrastructure over the last few years, both Citrix and VMware are counting on the same thing happening at the desktop level. XenDesktop 4’s key feature is FlexCast, a set of modules that can bring desktop virtualization to mobile workers, remote workers, guests and other use-case scenarios.

Citrix product marketing manager Calvin Hsu gave the example of what he called a “task worker,” such as a retail clerk or someone one a manufacturing shop floor, who doesn’t need a high degree of desktop personalization. FlexCast will allow users to connect into a server with Windows RDS Terminal Services and share a single instance of a desktop.

“They’ll have individual sessions, but the same configuration information with whatever applications and some minor ability to customize,” he said. “It’s great for task worker use cases, because it makes it more flexible.” 

IT managers would be able to run 500 desktop users off a single server thanks to XenDesktop 4’s FlexCast, Hsu said.

XenDesktop 4 will also include enhancements to HDX, Citrix’s technology to allow a high-definition user experience for virtual desktop users. Hsu said HDX will now consume up to 90 per cent less bandwidth than before, as well as good audio for voice-over-IP and specific integration to address branch office WAN optimization.

Like VMware, which sees Microsoft’s launch of Windows 7 later this month as a major desktop virtualization catalyst, Citrix believes customers are see the technology as a “strategic direction for their desktops, rather than a niche purchase for a certain set of users,” according to Hsu. However Andi Mann, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates in XX, said many IT managers may see desktop virtualization as technology still in the alpha stage.

“It’s more of an edge case than a mainstream case at the moment,” he said. “Part of that is to do with maturity. A lot is to do with the confidence level to deploy this, manage this, secure it, make it compliant.”

Once they make the move, however, Citrix may be in a good position, Mann said. He cited EMA research which indicated 40 per cent of enterprises are planning a deployment of server-hosted desktops in 12 months. XenDesktop is tightly integrated with XenApp, Citrix’s application virtualization product, which could give the company an advantage, Mann said.

“What we’re seeing here is Citrix actually addressing two of the top five outcomes through one product.”

Desktop virtualization was a key theme at last month’s VMworld 2009, where VMware hosted Telus in a keynote about how the telecom firm is using VMware View across more than 1,000 desktops. It also announced a bundling relationship for View with Dell. Hsu, however, said Citrix recently scored a 40,000-seat deal with a manufacturing firm and a 125,0000-seat deal with a financial services firm in the second quarter.

Citrix will also be moving to concurrent licensing, which is a staple of XenApp to user-based licensing for XenDesktop 4. Standard licensing will be US$75/user, enterprise will be US$225/user and Platinum, which includes the FlexCast delivery technology, will be US$350/user. Mann said ease of use and support for other systems and applications will probably be more important to most IT managers, though.

“VMware has a very strong financial position. They could probably afford to run a loss-leading program to try and combat that,” he said. “Cost is not the big issue here. Looking at the research, the lowest two decision factors for enterprises looking to choose are purchase costs and whether they have an existing installation from the same vendor. This is a fresh market. Everyone’s in play here.”

Citrix is also working a bare-metal hypervisor, called XenClient, which Hsu said is still on track for introduction early next year.

 

 

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