Citrix boosts VDI offerings for cloud-based mobile-centric world

Announces Project Avalon, which will eventually will allow enterprises to run any Windows application or desktop on any device in a cloud

Citrix Systems is upgrading XenDesktop, acquiring Virtual Computer, introducing a new type of hardware-assisted thin client and initiating a cloud project in an effort to make its virtual desktop infrastructure offering more attractive.

The company is focusing on that effort at its Synergy user conference, which opened Wednesday and runs through Friday in San Francisco.

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Desktop virtualization is one of the main themes at the event as the company provides its take on how enterprises can best deal with the challenge of managing desktops and applications in a new mobile-centric world.

Project Avalon will allow enterprises to run any Windows application or desktop in a public, private or hybrid cloud. The desktop or client can be delivered across any network, to any device, according to Citrix.

"Moving to a cloud architecture enables us to simplify the installation and expansion of [virtual desktop deployments] and how people can flexibly manage and optimize the utilization of those resources. It also adds a layer of automation," said Bob Schultz, vice president and general manager of Citrix's desktop and applications business.

The platform will run on an integration of XenDesktop and Apache CloudStack, on which Citrix has developed its own CloudPlatform. The combination enables multitenant installations across multiple locations that will be able to scale to over 1 million users, according to Citrix.

The transition to cloud-based desktops and applications isn't going to be a magical moment where enterprises move everything in one swoop, according to a blog post by Citrix's Joe Vaccaro, who oversees strategy and development for desktop and application delivery in the cloud.

Instead, it will be process where enterprises place new desktop and application groups in an on-premise private cloud and possibly look at getting extra capacity from a public cloud for their desktop and app needs, Vaccaro said.

The best way to get started is to continue deployments of XenApp 6.5 and XenDesktop 5.6, and use CloudStack, said Schultz.

When Project Avalon will arrive remains to be seen. Citrix isn't announcing availability, it said.

On Wednesday, Citrix also announced the acquisition of Virtual Computer, which will help Citrix improve its XenClient hypervisor, and create the Citrix XenClient Enterprise edition, it said.

XenClient is a so-called bare-metal hypervisor for desktop virtualization. The technology holds the promise of allowing desktop virtualization to work without a network connection and letting the IT department issue laptops that come with one OS for corporate use and one for personal use.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

While Project Avalon and the acquisition of Virtual Desktop is about Citrix's future, the company also made announcements that will have a more immediate effect for users.

Working with partners such as Hewlett-Packard, Citrix is announcing a new generation of thin clients that are based on the company's HDX System-on-Chip initiative, which was announced last October.

By using optimized hardware-based acceleration rather than decoding and rendering virtual desktop traffic on a general purpose processors in software, these clients can deliver the user experience of thin client hardware costing twice as much or more while reducing power consumption, heat, and footprint, according to a Citrix blog post.

Devices based on the initiative still run a Receiver client in an embedded OS, it said.

Besides Hewlett-Packard, hardware vendors such as Atrust, Centerm, NComputing and ThinLinX are also onboard, Citrix said. The thin clients are compatible with both XenDesktop and VDI-in-a-Box.

In June, Citrix will also start distributing XenDesktop 5.6 Feature Pack 1, which will simplify printing; use compression technology to reduce bandwidth requirements for 3D content from CAD/CAM or GIS applications; and process voice and video locally. The latter will, for example, work with Cisco System's VXI Unified Communications and Lync 2010 from Microsoft.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com.

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