Desktop virtualisation promises the ability for corporations to rationalise their huge farms of desktop PCs by switching users into the virtual world. Citrix is hoping that its Xen Desktop product, which it launched on Monday, will do just that.
While server virtualisation is already in use across the industry, desktop virtualisation has been slower to catch on in the entrprise, while, on paper at least, it potentially offers dramatic efficiencies.
IT managers are used to managing masses of desktops that require regular maintenance and software support which comes at a cost. Virus software has to be regularly updated, as does much other software, and that only adds to the cost.
By virtualising the desktop, companies can remove some of the cost. Updates can be more easily delivered virtually and, potentially, all maintenance becomes a little easier.
Part of the problem is that the world has become used to distributed systems but perhaps there is no reason why it should stay that way.
"Xen Desktop takes the model of this distributed endpoint and puts it right into the data centre," according to Calvin Hsu, senior product manager for Citrix XenDesktop. "This way we can offer storage and systems with cost effective scalability."
There is certainly mass appeal in virtualisation and XenDesktop will potentially get to reach into perhaps millions of desktops, according to Citrix who will be co-marketed its software with Microsoft.
With virtualisation organisations will be able to delivery solution that allows companies to virtualise Windows desktops in the datacentre and deliver them on-demand to office workers in any location. The company says it is a "comprehensive end-to-end desktop delivery system that offers an unparalleled end-user experience, dramatically simplifies desktop management and reduces the cost of traditional desktop computing by up to 40 per cent".
It does take various Citrix components and bring them together into one virtualised solution. It will include such features as provisioning so that desktops can be populated with new software and services easily, the company says, as well as a new way of working for Citrix.
"The desktop delivery system makes this provisioning much easier," Hsu told ZDNet.co.uk. "It talkes all the components [that make up a desktop system] and breaks them down. You then take all those smaller components and provision them as you need them."
The main components are the operating system, the applications and components for personalising a system. By being able to breaks down components in this way, an IT manager can decide which are necessary for which customer and allocate them accordingly.
Citrix uses a "golden image" system which basically works by defining an ideal system that will fit the most number of users. Once the "golden image" has been defined the company/IT manager should be able to deploy to the most number of systems. The exceptions, those users with special requirements, can be dealt with using differenct variations which all use the "golden image" as the start point.
According to Hsu, Citrix is expecting Xen Desktop to sell in vast numbers when it is available and he talked of interest from companies already in 30,000 to 40,000 seat editions. It is available now as a public Beta and will be available in its full version on May 20. Pricing for the standard edition is $75 with the enterprise edition and platinum editions costs $175 and $275. The top two editions are the only ones with the full range of new provisioning services. Pricing is per concurrent user.