Citrix Unveils XenDesktop 4 Virtualization Offering

Citrix is looking to tie together the disparate elements of desktop virtualization under XenDesktop 4, an offering that is designed to let businesses deliver any virtual desktop to any user through any model, including VDI and streaming. At the heart of XenDesktop 4 is Citrix's FlexCast delivery technology, as well as the integration of Citrix's XenApp application virtualization product.

Citrix is looking to bring together all the elements in the fractured and competitive desktop virtualization space under one umbrella.

That umbrella is XenDesktop 4.

Announced Oct. 6, XenDesktop 4 essentially comes with some 170 new features designed to enable businesses to deliver virtualized desktops to any user on any device through any model, including server-based, VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) and streaming.

The offering supports not only Citrix's XenServer virtualization technology, but also Microsoft's Hyper-V and VMware's ESX virtualization products, and VMware's vSphere 4 platform. Company officials also said that integrating Citrix's XenApp application virtualization technology into XenDesktop 4 will mean that application delivery is a part of the overall management scenario, improving costs.

The new offering, which will be generally available Nov. 16 and licensed on a per-user basis, comes as VMware and Microsoft look to bulk up their desktop virtualization capabilities, and as a host of established and smaller companies-such as Wyse Technology, MokaFive, Pano Logic, Wanova and RingCube-are offering their own desktop virtualization products.

At the same time, OEMs and analysts are anticipating an uptick in spending by enterprises on new PCs toward the end of this year and into 2010, thanks to the need to refresh aging fleets of PCs and the release later this month of Microsoft's much anticipated Windows 7 operating system.

Citrix President and CEO Mark Templeton is calling 2010 a "watershed year for desktop virtualization."

"Twenty-five years ago, the personal computer turned the world upside down, radically improving individual productivity and communications," Templeton said in a statement. "That world is about to change again. People today need to work in entirely new ways, powered by the connectivity of the Internet, an explosion of new devices and the limitless promise of the Web."

All that needs to be done without being tied down to traditional desktops, and desktop virtualization can do all that, he said.

The key to XenDesktop 4 is what Citrix officials call their FlexCast delivery technology, which gives businesses the ability to deliver any type of virtual desktop to any user on any device.

For example, XenDesktop 4 can offer a server-based virtual desktop for workers who share the same applications, while at the same time giving office workers who need more customization a hosted VDI option.

Blade PCs can deliver virtualized desktops to power users running high-end applications, while XenDesktop 4 can stream desktops to other users.

Citrix also has enhanced its HDX high-definition technology, which gives users of XenDesktop 4 a full desktop experience regardless of the device they're using. The upgrades are aimed at multimedia content, real-time collaboration, 3D graphics and USB peripherals.

Dell is incorporating XenDesktop 4 into its larger Flexible Computing strategy, and Citrix officials talked about their expanded relationship with Microsoft. The new Citrix offering leverages enhancements in Microsoft's Windows Servers 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services and VDI Suites. The two companies also are working to integrate Microsoft's Application Virtualization technology into XenDesktop, and XenDesktop 4 is aimed to take advantage of features in Windows 7.