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9 Cool New Features in Citrix XenDesktop 5.6

On March 9, Citrix released a minor upgrade for XenDesktop. The new version puts the software at revision 5.6. While this is not a major version, it packs some really cool features that make it worth an upgrade. Here's a look at nine of them:

Citrix Personal vDisk Technology
The star feature without a doubt is the integration of technology from the RingCube acquisition, which Citrix completed last year. XenDesktop 5.6 now fully integrates Personal vDisk into all the appropriate consoles: Desktop Studio, Desktop Director, and Provisioning Services Console.

I am personally very excited about this integration because it expands XenDesktop's capabilities even further. You can now address those "exception" or demanding users without deviating from the standards that you have built into the environment. You can now use non-persistent desktops for everyone and break out the users that need persistence using the Personal vDisk technology.

Microsoft System Center 2012-Ready
This is definitely a welcome announcement, not because it is ground-breaking technology, but rather because it shows that Citrix is thinking about desktop management end to end, not just desktop virtualization. System Center is, for the most part, a de facto standard in managing physical desktops. Integration with XenDesktop completes the desktop strategy. The integration also extends features to XenDesktop, like reporting and policy enhancements, that would otherwise be lacking.

Mobile Application Access
XenDesktop on-demand applications based on XenApp automatically adapts the user interface of the application depending on the device being used. For example, smartphone or tablet users interact through a different user interfacce that users at a computer with a keyboard and mouse and large monitor. XenDesktop adds a feature in conjunction with Citrix Receiver to leverage the capabilities of the end user device and to adapt the user interface to take advantage of it. For example, the technology will attempt to display the application more efficiently on smaller screens, will pop up a virtual keyboard when clicking on a text field, and so on.

CloudGateway Express
CloudGateway Express is the successor to the wonderfully pleasant Web Interface; it is Citrix's unified storefront for aggregating virtual applications and desktops. I personally recommend Web Interface as CloudGateway Express still lacks the full feature set of Web Interface. Even then, Citrix has definitely taken a step in the right direction with CloudGateway Express. Another reason to use CloudGateway Express is that it makes it easy to upgrade to CloudGateway Enterprise, a universal broker for mobile applications and SaaS, and it can be used as a Mobile Device Manager.

XenClient 2.1
XenClient 2.1 has some impressive features as well. I can clearly see the positive effect that the RingCube acquisition has had on several Citrix products, but most especially on XenClient with the introduction of layering as a means to manage Windows images.

Dynamic Image Assembly
And with that, XenClient 2.1 now supports layering, a technology that allows IT to maintain its supported, ocked down image but extends flexibility to end users that install their own applications. These applications or customizations go on a different layer. These multiple layers are then dynamically assembled and presented as a single instance to the user. This significantly lowers helpdesk break/fix calls and allows for flexible management.

Delta Image Updates
The Citrix XenClient Synchronizer can update the IT layer with ease. If you make changes to master image, you can use the Synchronizer to update the changes on the image. But instead of deploying the entire image again, it simply updates the delta changes, thereby making the update simpler, easier and faster.

Fast System Updates
This is a really cool feature: Imagine you want to update the image with a new service pack or a new version of Office. While the user is connected to the network, the changes that IT wants to make are downloaded in the background. When the user reboots, the user is automatically presented with the most up to date image.

Automatic Image Lockdown
If you did not want to allow users to install applications or make changes beyond those that affect their data and user profile, you can leverage this technology to enforce IT-deployed applications and settings. Any changes the user makes beyond user data and profile are automatically disregarded; as a result, the IT image is always pristine.

Windows Image Rollback
Did you just roll out an update that is not stable? With Windows Image Rollback you can now undo these changes and go back to the previous version. Simply restart the Windows machine.

Self-Service Install
Users can install IT-approved applications that are available to them via Citrix Receiver.

Citrix is really improving and continually enhancing the XenDesktop platform with some really cool features. I am definitely looking forward to XenDesktop 6; I wonder if we will hear about that at Synergy San Francisco or Synergy Europe?

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 03/19/2012 at 12:49 PM


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