Citrix to combine desktop virtualization products, lower costs

Citrix partners and analysts say the company may combine XenApp and XenDesktop, lower costs and simplify licensing to drive desktop virtualization adoption.

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Citrix Systems Inc. plans to launch a desktop virtualization strategy on Monday that it hopes will fundamentally change the way customers view and deploy desktop virtualization. The strategy is likely to include unifying XenApp and XenDesktop, lowering costs and simplifying licensing.

One executive at a Citrix partner in the Midwest said Citrix will announce "something that relates to licensing changes, which might result in combination of products."

"For instance, all XenApp customers become XenDesktop customers," he said on the condition of anonymity.

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Addressing the confusion between XenDesktop and XenApp is one of the most important ways in which Citrix can drive desktop virtualization adoption, said Rachael Chalmers, an analyst at New York-based 451 Group.

"There is confusion around XenApp and XenDesktop, and having one product that could do all of the combined functions would be of the most value," Chalmers said. "There are certain remote users such as those in call centers ... who are happy with XenApp, and [another segment of] users [who] are happy with XenDesktop. But if XenApp features were included in XenDesktop, it would be suitable for all users."

The confusion lies in the overlap of some -- but not all -- features. Citrix XenApp lets clients connect via Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) to both desktops and applications, and it allows applications to be streamed for offline use, but full desktops can't be. Meanwhile, XenDesktop lets users connect to full desktops via ICA, and those desktops can be streamed for offline use, but individual apps cannot.

Longtime Citrix terminal services and XenApp user Ben Kohn at Ionia, Mich.-based Independent Bank said making full XenDesktops available offline and on various devices would add to the appeal.

"One of the reasons VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] is still somewhat of a niche use case is the requirement that you're online to access it. 'Desktop virtualization,' as a term, means VDI and offline use to a lot of people," Kohn said.

The Citrix partner also said there "is some talk on the inside about reducing the price and going to a named-user model. Citrix currently uses a concurrent-user model. The named-user model would give each user their own Citrix connection license," which would allow users to connect from as many clients as they wish.

This makes sense, since Citrix is also working on ways to let customers deploy its desktop virtualization products onto different devices, including Apple's Mac machines, one analyst said.

Lowering cost could increase VDI adoption
The initial acquisition costs associated with hardware and software for desktop virtualization is the No. 1 reason why IT pros have not adopted desktop virtualization, according to the 2009 Virtualization Decisions survey of over 900 IT professionals.

Citrix knows that price is a major hurdle, and the company "understands that the more aggressive they can get on price, the better," one analyst said.

Tony Wilburn, a virtualization consultant at Betis Group, a technology firm in Arlington, Va., concurred that VDI deployment costs need to be lowered for adoption to improve.

"The biggest issues [with desktop virtualization] are networking, storage and cost. The only one of those that Citrix could possibly tackle is cost," said Wilburn. "If they want to take market share away from VMware, the real way would be to do the same things cheaper, much cheaper -- cheap enough that it's worth it to an admin to have VMware and Hyper-V in the data center for server virtualization and Citrix for desktop virtualization."

One analyst briefed by the company said Citrix is making good on the vision it has been laying out all along. "Management is a big area for them to focus on -- it is what drives desktop virtualization adoption," he said.

The analyst also said that Citrix's continued relationship with Microsoft Corp. is "very important."

Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 R2, due out Oct. 22, will have built-in desktop virtualization capabilities called Remote Desktop Protocol, but Microsoft is still expected to recommend Citrix VDI products for large deployments, because Citrix's products offer more management features.

News editor Colin Steele contributed to this report

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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