Another compatibility issue is the range of guest operating systems XenClient will support. According to Wolf, "Windows 7 is supported, Windows XP is supported ... beyond that I'm not really sure. I know some folks who have been part of the beta program have had success virtualizing a number of guest operating systems ... I believe even Linux in some cases, but that's not officially support by Citrix at this point."
Still to come: robust virtual desktop management
The other big question is: What management capabilities will Citrix built around XenClient? The potential is huge.
Golden images could be managed on central servers (with much less expense than VDI), where updates and patches are centralized and pushed to client-side virtual machines when users connect to the network. A policy server could be used to control whether the virtual machine could access printers or USB devices, whether the virtual machine could be used offline or only when authenticated to the corporate network, whether the virtual machine is encrypted, and whether the virtual machine would be expired/erased after a certain length of time without connecting to the network.
But so far, says Wolf, such sophisticated management does not appear to be in evidence. "They've built in some basic replication right now, so I can replicate that virtual desktop back to my data center. So for business continuity purposes I can either connect that virtual desktop to a server and run it off a server, or I can just re-synch it with another desktop running the XenClient."
The promise of VDI is to provide the familiar, rich, isolated personal desktop experience to users via a thin client, while giving IT central control over access and data. The client hypervisor has the potential to provide much the same level of central control and all the familiar benefits of virtual machines, including easy backup, copy, and replacement. But XenClient is not even close to being there yet. In fact, at this time we have no way of knowing whether VMware might be further along -- and has just chosen to wait until its offering matures.
According to Wolf, the organizations evaluating client hypervisors believe it will be "2011 or 2012" before they start to look seriously at any major initiatives. The announcement today offers mainly exciting potenial.
This article, "Citrix fires up desktop virtualization," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter and on your mobile device at infoworldmobile.com.
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