Citrix Canada opens up about Xen Desktop

ComputerWorld Canada sat down with Citrix area vice-president for Canada David Wright this week to chat about one of the company’s newest enterprise offerings, XenDesktop, which was released in June. The virtual desktop application is one of the most recent products to come out of last summer’s XenSource acquisition. We checked in with Citrix about the benefits for IT managers on taking their desktops virtual and the ROI to tout to your CIO and users.

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ComputerWorld Canada: How do you foresee most IT managers integrating this with their products?

David Wright: Well, it’s often combined with (application virtualization engine) XenApp and (server virtualization product) XenServer. People can use it on a Microsoft or VMWare architecture.

ComputerWorld Canada: At what point in the curve are we at with virtualization in the enterprise?

David Wright: If you take a look at the virtualization of applications, that’s been going on for the last eight to 10 years now, while virtualization of servers has come along in the last couple of years. The new ground to be worked is desktop virtualization. It’s a very new area, and we’re in the early stages.

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ComputerWorld Canada: When do you foresee this trend going full-on mainstream?

David Wright: We see a very sharp increase over the next two to three years, and the next 12 to 18 months, even, will show a more rapid adoption.

ComputerWorld Canada: The concept of a “virtual desktop” might seem a little kooky to users. What has the feedback been like there so far in terms of the learning curve?

David Wright: With user adoption, the experience is virtually identical (no pun intended!). There may be a modest bit of training around the log-in procedures, but it’s not a major leap. And the set-up in the data center isn’t complex.

ComputerWorld Canada: For IT managers needing to prove the ROI to their higher-ups (or even in their own mind), what are the real drivers behind the burgeoning desktop virtualization movement?

David Wright: The security aspect is really important. Most organizations want to get data off their devices so that people aren’t carrying it around in public or leaving it places. Plus, if organizations have workers not fully affiliated with them that need access (like outsourcers or dealers), they can make use of certain information or applications, but couldn’t do any harm.

ComputerWorld Canada: Could it also benefit the growing legions of teleworkers?

David Wright: They can connect from their hotel room, their home, or a client site. There’s no data left locally. There’s also a “smooth roaming” feature that allows workers to start up where they left off with their work: since it’s not on the hard drive of the device you’re using, you could even switch from a PC to a Mac and all the documents you had open will be there waiting for you.

Another huge driver is the central administration angle. Remote offices often can’t support a large number of local IT personnel, and this helps there with the centralization of the administration. This also lowers cost.

ComputerWorld Canada: How does that tie into the skills shortage? Does that free up more IT staffers?

David Wright: That way, IT managers aren’t tied up with desktops day in and day out!

ComputerWorld Canada: Are there any other time-savers offered by a virtual desktop environment?

David Wright: You can also run two different versions of the same application at the same time. This is helpful for when customers don’t want to convert the data in an old application or a quasi-proprietary application based on a standard on. That is a long, complicated and costly process, so it’s very attractive to medium and large-sized enterprises with legacy systems. And they don’t have to retrain their users, either.

ComputerWorld Canada: As the newest player, one of the first questions everyone asks is, how does it stand up to Microsoft (and its HyperV)? Or, in this case as well, VMWare?

David Wright: Well, we are one of Microsoft’s largest partners, and we add value to Microsoft by adding a virtual desktop, but with XenApp and XenServer, we do offer that end-to-end solution. Our strength is that it goes right back to the data center. We have a background in this, and so our approach is more holistic.

Canadian pricing for the product ranges from $75 to $395 per CCU.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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