New version of Citrix XenClient lets users install apps

Citrix hopes to make the bare-metal hypervisor more popular with enterprise users who travel a lot and have to rely on flaky Internet access

The latest version of Citrix Systems' XenClient offers better integration with its other desktop virtualization offerings and more user personalization, as the vendor hopes to make the bare-metal hypervisor more popular among road warriors.

Bare-metal hypervisors run directly on the hardware, and operating systems can then run on top of them in separate virtual machines. The technology holds the promise of allowing desktop virtualization to work without a network connection, which should make it a good fit for enterprise users that travel a lot and often have to rely on flaky Internet access.

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XenClient 5, code-named Project Thunder, has added a number of features to build on that basic premise, including letting users install their own apps.

That is possible thanks to Personal vDisk integration, a technology that came with Citrix's acquisition of RingCube and is already available on XenDesktop. Previously XenClient was available using either a shared-image mode or custom-image mode. The latter made administrators unhappy because they had to manage the images separately while the shared images didn't allow users to install and keep their own applications.

"With Personal vDisk, the way it works, is the admin delivers a golden image, and then on top of that, in a separate layer, users or departments can install apps which persist ... so everybody is happy," said Sham Sao, senior director of product marketing at Citrix.

The next big addition in XenClient 5 is unified profile management, a feature that improves integration with Citrix's XenDesktop from the user's point of view, allowing users to move between laptops, desktops and tablets that run either of the two platforms, and still be able to access their profiles, including bookmarks, and data.

"It gives users a more integrated experience," Sao said.

The administration of XenClient and XenDesktop hasn't yet been completely integrated; the IT department still needs a separate tool to manage XenClient.

"We are still looking at that. I don't have a timing on it yet, but it is something we are planning to do," Sao said.

Citrix has also added a number of other improvements to the new XenClient, including better support for Windows 8 to let users have multiple monitors. It can now run on laptops based on Intel's fourth generation Core processors and Citrix also promises faster boot times.

Today XenClient is used in a number of different sectors -- including healthcare and financial services -- by companies that have a lot of laptops, according to Sao. It is also used by companies that have a large number of distributed offices, and want to take advantage of the centralized administration desktop virtualization offers but don't want to install a server at each location, he said.

XenClient 5 will be available for download from Aug. 12 from the Citrix website. It costs $175 plus a $39 software maintenance fee. The product is also included in XenDesktop Enterprise and Platinum editions, and enterprises on the XenDesktop Subscription Advantage program can download XenClient 5 as well.

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