Citrix launches XenDesktop 4

XenDesktop v4 packages up nearly all desktop virtualization components. What will VMware do?
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

Citrix just launched XenDesktop v4 to enhance its "any network/any device" desktop virtualization capabilities, offer better packaging of Citrix's components and higher performance for graphics-intense applications that are delivered over a LAN or a WAN. This product integrates Citrix's management, security, access virtualization, application virtualization and processing virtualization components. What's exciting is that all major hypervisors; including Citrix's own XenServer™, Micrsoft's Hyper-V™ and VMware's ESX™; are supported. VMware's vSphere™ is also supported.

Here's what Citrix has to say about XenDesktop v4

The virtual desktop revolution is here… for everyone

Citrix XenDesktop 4 is a groundbreaking new product that makes virtual desktops a mainstream reality for hundreds of millions of corporate users for the first time ever. Unlike first-generation solutions that were applicable only to a narrow set of users, XenDesktop 4 with its new FlexCast™ delivery technology is the first product in the industry to support every major desktop virtualization platform in a single, integrated solution – a breakthrough that improves ROI, simplifies management and extends the benefits of virtualization to every employee in the enterprise.

XenDesktop 4 further simplifies desktop computing by integrating all the functionality of Citrix XenApp™, enabling customers to deliver applications as a seamless part of their overall desktop strategy. To ensure every user gets a high-definition experience at all times, XenDesktop 4 also includes significant enhancements to its award-winning HDX™ technology.

New in XenDesktop 4

FlexCast™ delivery technology – FlexCast ensures the optimal delivery of virtual desktop, to any user, on any device while meeting the performance, security, and flexibility requirements.

On-demand apps by XenApp – The full inclusion of XenApp makes XenDesktop 4 the only solution that can do it all: deliver individual applications or complete Windows desktops.

HDX™ user experience – User experience is crucial for users. Additional enhancements to HDX improved Flash multimedia performance while using 90% less bandwidth compared to alternative solutions. New webcam and VoIP support, improved audio, high-end 3D graphics support, and branch office WAN optimization ensure that users can get a high-definition user experience over the LAN and the WAN.

Snapshot Analysis

Desktop virtualization is really the expression or implementation of three different types of virtualiztaion — access virtualization, application virtualization and processing virtualization combined with management and security. It is deployed to support a number of things depending upon which technology is utilized.

  • Access virtualization
    • Centralization of processing and storage to reduce overall costs
    • Allow access to applications and data from just about any intelligent networkable device, over just about any network from just about anywhere
    • Allow access to virtual clients (VDI)

  • Application virtualization
    • Isolate applications from one another on the same client system allowing previously incompatible applications to happily co-exsist
    • Allow applications from one version of an operating system to run on a newer version
    • Allow applications to be delivered to remote systems in a number of ways ranging from downloading an application in a piecemeal fashion, downloading it temporarily or a permanent installation automatically
    • Allow applications to be updated on the fly

  • Processing virtualization
    • Encapsulate entire workload, including operating system, data management, data, application frameworks and applications
    • Encapsulated "virtual clients" can run locally or remotely in the network somewhere. Several could run on the same system at the same time to allow controlled, locked-down corporate desktops to co-exist with a user's own personal desktops.

As you can see, when one looks "under the hood" of a virtual desktop environment, it becomes very complex, very quickly. Citrix's announcement puts all of this and more (graphics acceleration, determination of what approach to use and when) into a single package. IT architects and administrators will just have to love that.

Citrix demonstrated its strong ecosystem by having CSC, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel, NetApp, Microsoft  and Wyse participate with them.

It is clear that VMware isn't sitting still. Although it appears that this product launch puts Citrix ahead in the integration and delivery of virtual desktops, this lead is likely to evaporate in the near future. One thing going for Citrix is the emphasis on multivendor, multiplatform environments.

Unasked for shoot-from-the-hip advice

Wow, you really covered just about every technology and every form of media with this launch. Although this may be unprecedented, I can only say good job, but you'd better move fast.

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