Citrix XenDesktop 5 simplifies management of virtualized desktops

Citrix hopes improvements to XenDesktop 5 will convince more companies to virtualize their desktops

By making the new version of XenDesktop easier to manage, Citrix Systems is hoping to convince more companies to virtualize their desktops, the company said on Wednesday at its Synergy user conference.

Today, the interest in desktop virtualization -- in which, for example, the client OS runs on a server and is delivered virtually to the user -- is growing fast. Citrix has benefitted from this trend, according to Citrix's CEO Mark Templeton. The arrival of Windows 7 helped boost the interest for desktop virtualization, and today, over half of the Fortune 100 companies have the platform in production, Templeton said during his keynote.

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One of the drawbacks with the current version of XenDesktop is that it can be complex to manage, but with XenDesktop 5 Citrix is hoping to change that. Desktop Studio and Desktop Director is going to make it happen, helping IT departments create and manage desktop images, according to Citrix. Users should be up and running in 10 minutes, thanks to wizards that guide the user through the configuration process, Templeton promised.

To further lower the bar for starting to use virtualized desktops, Citrix will next year start the Success Accelerator Program, designed to allow new users to take advantage of what existing users have learned. The idea is that enterprises shouldn't have to "invent the wheel" over and over again, according to Templeton.

XenDesktop 5 isn't just about making life easier for the IT department. When an enterprise makes the move to virtualized desktops, it's important to have users onboard, and to ease that process Citrix has added a new, better-looking user interface.

To access virtual desktops and applications, the Citrix Receiver client is used. At Synergy, Citrix announced that the client can be used to access Web-based applications with single sign-on. Citrix's self-service portal Dazzle has also been integrated.

Receiver can be used on a variety of PCs, Macs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. That allows the IT department to say yes to users that want to access the enterprise using their own device, Templeton said.

The technology that makes Citrix's desktop virtualization work is HDX (High-Definition User Experience), which has been improved in version 5 of XenDesktop, as well. Users can expect better video, audio, and printing performance. HDX has also become better at dealing with changing network conditions, with the ability to adapt, for example, to a bandwidth decline.

XenDesktop also includes XenApp, which is used to deliver applications virtually to the desktop.

XenDesktop 5 will be generally available in Q4 2010. Pricing starts at $95 per user or device for the VDI-only edition, for enterprises that just want the option of running desktops on a virtual machine on a server. Citrix's more comprehensive desktop and application virtualization is available in the Enterprise or Platinum editions, priced from $225 and $350 per user, respectively.

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