Intel and Citrix are planning to bring desktop virtualization technologies to a wider enterprise audience by combining their respective capabilities to make running and managing virtual machines within corporate desktops and notebooks easier. Intel and Citrix plan to combine Intel's vPro management and security technology with Citrix's Xen hypervisor and other virtualization applications that will allow IT departments to run several secure virtual machines within the same corporate client. The announcement by Citrix and Intel also looks to counter what VMware plans to offer with its vClient VMware View products.
The result is a desktop or laptop that can run several virtual
environments that are secure and isolated from one another. At the same
time, the IT department can manage the desktop image and software and
operating system updates from a central, secure location, while
allowing the user to benefit from the performance and graphics
capabilities of their PC.
The key to this development is a hypervisor - the piece of software
that makes virtualization possible - that resides bare metal within the
"What we are really trying to address are some of the core
challenges and some of the core barriers that have kept client
virtualization models and solutions from being adopted in the past,"
said Gregory Bryant, vice president of Intel's Business Client Group.
"What we want to offer are support for mobile and support for local
execution of virtualization on the client so that the user experience
is better," Bryant added.
While Intel and Citrix announced their collaboration Wednesday,
executives from both companies declined to discuss any specific
products or road maps at this time. Citrix, which is developing the
technology needed for client virtualization under the codename "Project
Independence," does not plan to offer specific products for the IT
market until the second half of 2009.
While Citrix and Intel are working on their efforts to enhance
client virtualization, VMware - still considered the leading provider
of x86-based virtualization technology - is also working to offer a
similar set of products for corporate clients. Later this year, VMware plans to offer similar technologies through its vClient and VMware View products
that will not only offer client virtualization but also bring those
same types of capabilities to other devices such as smart phones.
While many IT vendors have been talking about VDI or virtual desktop infrastructure solutions and products in 2008, what Intel and Citrix are offering is different but it does combine some aspects of what is found in VDI.
In the VDI model, the desktop image and applications are
virtualized, managed and stored within a centralized data center and
the image and applications are then transmitted or streamed to a
thin-client PC or another device that sits on a person's desk. While
this model offers security and centralized management, it is difficult
to access data when a user is not working within the corporate network.
At the same time, employees lose out on the full desktop experience
when it comes to processor and graphics performance.
In the model that Intel and Citrix are developing, the hypervisor
sits bare metal within a PC's firmware, which allows for better
security since the different virtual machines are isolated from one
another within the physical hardware. At the same time, a user can take
advantage of the graphics and processing power of a fully functional
desktop or laptop.
What Intel and Citrix are offering will also allow a user to work
within a virtual machine that is no longer connected to the network.
This is an important step since many enterprises are focusing more on
mobility and allowing more employees to use laptops, which allows them
to work from home or a remote location. When these remote users then
reconnect to the corporate network, the information is synchronized and
the IT department can then update the desktop image and run any
necessary software or security updates.
The Citrix and Intel model uses some aspects of VDI by allowing the
IT department to manage all the desktop images and applications within
a centralized data center where the servers are also virtualized. At
the same time, the IT department can bundle the operating systems and
applications into a virtual appliance and send those resources out to
the clients when needed.
The IT department can also set different polices, such as not allowing a laptop or desktop to access USB memory sticks.
"What you have is a virtual machine that is personal to the user and
they can run whatever application they like," said Ian Pratt, vice
president of Advanced Products and Virtualization and Management at
Citrix. "The second virtual machine, which is supplied by the company,
is run by the IT administrators and kept separate."
hypervisor can be integrated by PC vendors into the vPro chip bundle and
the firmware of the individual PC, a company employee can keep a totally separate
virtual machine that has personal information and that virtual environment is
totally separate from the corporate desktop image. This
allows employees to use their personal laptops for work, while create a
more secure environment for bringing these outside notebooks within a
This also allows Intel and its OEM partners to sell more expensive
laptops that use the pricier vPro chip bundle. (Intel first began
selling its vPro technology with desktops in 2006 and then began
offering the chip bundle with laptops in 2007.)
The Citrix platform that will sit on top of the Intel vPro chip
bundle will use the hardware hooks and capabilities that Intel has
built into that platform as well as Intel VT virtualization technology.
Intel and Citrix did not indicate if any PC vendors have signed up to
offer these technologies within their corporate clients. However, Intel
and Citrix both indicated that they hope to move the technology to
handheld devices, such as smartphones, in the future.
In a discussion with reporters before the announcement, Intel did
not indicate if another virtualization company wanted to develop
virtualization on top of its vPro platform.
Editor's note: This article was updated to clarify how Intel and Citrix will ship this new hypervisor and how PC vendors can offer the technology.