Citrix desktop virtualization strategy debuts at Synergy '08

Citrix's new end-to-end approach is ambitious, but are customers ready for desktop virtualization?

The new Citrix desktop virtualization strategy launched yesterday as the company kicked off its Citrix Synergy '08 partner and customer conference in Houston.

The centerpiece is Citrix XenDesktop, which stores images of operating systems, applications and user settings and assembles a new desktop every time a user logs on. The company also announced the Citrix Branch Repeater appliance, which amplifies data that streams from corporate data centers to branch offices, and the Citrix Desktop and App Receiver software clients, which receive virtualized applications and desktops and present them on PCs and desktop appliances.

Francis Poeta, president of P & M Computers Inc., a Citrix partner in Cliffside Park, N.J., said the strategy makes sense, although it is ahead of customer demand.

"It's a great package to put together," he said. "It's an end-to-end solution. Now we just have to see if the market is ready for it."

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Poeta pointed out that all of the virtualization market buzz now is around server virtualization -- and even so, it's still an emerging technology. Desktop virtualization is even farther behind, he said. P & M has a couple of customers in desktop virtualization pilot programs now, and demand will grow slowly, he said.

"This isn't going to be a particular customer replacing a couple thousand desktops in the first year," he added. "It's not going to happen."

Citrix XenDesktop is compatible with VMware and Microsoft virtualization environments -- a move designed to increase Citrix's virtualization market share and attract customers away from VMware. By assembling a new desktop every time a user signs on, the product also improves computing performance, Citrix said.

XenDesktop is now available in three editions: Express, which is free for up to 10 users; Enterprise, which costs $295 per user and includes XenApp for virtual desktops; and Platinum, which is $395 per user. Platinum adds additional security, monitoring and Citrix's click-to-call capability to make it easier for VARs to support remote customers.

XenApp typically costs $495 per concurrent user, so the advanced editions of Citrix XenDesktop offer additional value for customers, said Barry Phillips, vice president and general manager of Citrix's advanced solutions group.

Citrix Branch Repeater is available now, while the Citrix Desktop and App Receivers will be available in the second half of this year.

The new products will help Citrix win the business of customers considering desktop virtualization but haven't been completely sold on the technology up to this point, Poeta said. But it will take a significant change in customer attitudes -- for example, if gas prices become so high that telecommuting becomes the norm -- before desktop virtualization really catches on.

"There has to be a moment of clarity for this to start making sense in a broader environment," Poeta said.

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