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Citrix Releases XenDesktop

Citrix's virtualization strategy took a big leap forward today with the release of XenDesktop. The announcement was made on the first day of Synergy, Citrix's flagship conference.

XenDesktop is Citrix virtual desktop infrastructure product, and a direct competitor to VMware's VDI. Other companies such as HP, Sun and Microsoft all have, or are developing, VDI solutions, but the industry leader is clearly VMware VDI.

It's been known for a long time that XenDesktop was coming. There is some new news, however; mainly that there are some additional versions not anticipated, including a free one. It's the Express Edition, and can handle up to 10 users. Also announced were new Enterprise and Platinum editions, which include a licensed version of XenApp in the bundle. Platinum Edition, according the Citrix press release, "... adds extensive optimization, security, monitoring and end user support benefits." The specific technologies weren't detailed, however. (For the differences between desktop virtualization, application virtualization and PC virtualization, see my column here.)

XenDesktop, as I see it, is the first clear, major competitor to VMware VDI. The products mentioned earlier from HP and Sun aren't promoted that heavily from the companies, which still focus more on server virtualization. The next big play is likely to be from Microsoft, and Citrix is getting out ahead of Redmond's offering by at least a few months (the final release of Hyper-V is still looking like an August deliverable).

Given how closely Citrix and Microsoft are promoting their virtualization interoperability, though, don't be surprised to see a lot of complementary technologies between the two VDI offerings. Do expect to see all their guns aimed at VMware, which has been their M.O. thus far. They feel, probably with a lot of justification, that VMware is so strong here that combining forces is necessary.

I love the idea of the Express Edition. Not only does it give SMBs a real VDI product, but it gives enterprises something they can test on a small scale before rolling out in a big way. And admins are more likely to do that, given its price tag. As Homer Simpson once said: "No payments per month? Yeah, I think we can swing that!"

(Side note: for a great description of the differences between VDI and more traditional approaches like Terminal Services, see Brian Madden's article here.)

Posted by Keith Ward on 05/20/2008 at 12:48 PM


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