Citrix Builds Out Its Delivery Center

The XenDesktop product is the beginning of Citrix's new method for delivering applications to the desktop.

Citrix Systems is looking to combine its traditional application delivery technology with its recently developed virtualization offerings into a new way to deliver applications to a fleet of corporate desktops, whether in the main office or at a remote site.

At the company's Synergy user conference, which starts May 20 in Houston, Citrix will offer additional pieces for its Delivery Center, a new set of technologies for delivering desktop images and applications from the data center to the PC. The company first detailed some of the offerings behind Delivery Center in April.

For months, Citrix has talked about its XenDesktop product, which will allow an IT department to host a virtual desktop within the data center. The product, which officially debuts May 20, is an important piece of the company's efforts to build out a new virtualized infrastructure to compete with the likes of VMware and its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure suite.

While most virtualized desktop infrastructure projects focus on delivering desktop images within the same building, Citrix is looking to expand that ability to remote and branch offices with new products built into its Delivery Center suite.

The first is called Branch Repeater, a software appliance that sits between the data center and the branch office and helps transmit applications from the main location to the remote office. This appliance works with Citrix XenApp-the new name of Citrix Presentation Server-to help download and deploy applications to PCs in a branch or remote office using the LAN.

"If there are 25 employees in a branch and they are trying to get their machines updated through those streamed apps, they are going through an extremely slow WAN link," said Barry Phillips, general manager of Citrix's Advanced Solutions Group. "What the Branch Repeater does is go in and essentially cache those streamed files and maintain them. So those 25 users, instead of all going through a skinny WAN link, can operate on their 100 [M bit] or 1 [G bit] LAN and hit that branch repeater and pull those things down."

The other benefit, Phillips said, is that the Branch Repeater is built on Microsoft Windows Server and allows the IT department working in the main data center to consolidate Microsoft's Branch Services for the remote offices, which should speed up the delivery of file and print services.

In addition to the repeater product, Citrix will add two other pieces to its Delivery Center to help round out its virtual desktop offerings. The first is the Desktop Receiver, which works with XenDesktop and allows a user to access a virtual desktop image from a different location.

The second piece, called Citrix App Receiver, works through XenApp and NetScaler-which helps optimize Web and WAN delivery-to allow the user to access an application from different locations.

With Citrix, VMware and soon Microsoft fully invested in the virtualization marketplace, the field is moving away from simple server consolidation into several other directions, including desktop virtualization and new ways to stream applications from the data center to the PC.

At a recent forum in New York, IDC found that the interest in building a virtualized desktop environment is growing among IT departments. However, because of the cost and complexity of such a change, including concerns about operating system licensing, only a few IT departments are experimenting with the technology and few have moved it out of the test phase.

So far, neither VMware nor Citrix can claim a dominant spot in the market. On May 19, VMware announced it would create new services around its VDI suite in order to give IT departments new best practices to follow if they decide on a centralized desktop model.

Phillips said he believes that Citrix's ability to stream an operating system or an application into a virtual machine and then send that image out to desktops creates a unique delivery system compared with other offerings in the market right now.

"It's much quicker in terms of bootup, much better in terms of performance and much, much lower in terms of storage, power, cooling and everything else," Phillips said.