XenDesktop updated for speed, better integration

Feature Pack 1 for Citrix XenDesktop 4 -- released with XenApp 6 -- addresses several architectural issues that users have been waiting for.

Last week, Citrix announced Feature Pack 1 for XenDesktop 4. (In Citrix parlance, a "feature pack" is like a minor version update. Think of it as a service pack that also includes new features.) FP1 is supposed to be available for download today.

The release of XenDesktop 4 FP1 was timed with the release of XenApp 6, Citrix's Terminal Services-based product line. XenApp 6 was a complete rewrite, addressing several major architectural issues that many users have wanted for years.

So since XenApp and XenDesktop are so closely related, a major update to XenApp means that XenDesktop gets pulled along for some "low-effort" new features.

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The first is that XenDesktop is now fully (and tightly) integrated with Microsoft's App-V application virtualization solution. In XenDesktop 4 FP1, it's just as easy to publish and deliver App-V apps as it is Citrix XenApp apps. This is great for end users who doubt that Citrix's own app streaming will ever be as good as Microsoft's. Now it doesn't matter.

Another new feature is that centrally-managed user profiles are streamed into desktops on demand. Previous versions of XenDesktop loaded the entire profile during the logon process, making logons slow for power users.

Feature Pack 1 adds a lot of support for graphics capabilities, including 32-bit color support, Windows 7 Aero support, and a special "lossless" quality mode for things like medical imaging apps, where you don't want to miss a brain tumor because of a compression algorithm.

Citrix also added support for x64 virtual machines -- both Windows XP and Windows 7. Many customers have been slow to move to x64 for their desktop operating systems, and Windows x64 certainly consumes more memory than the 32-bit variants, but x64 offers better performance than 32-bit, even for virtual desktops. And thanks to Feature Pack 1, we now have the chance to find out.

In addition, Feature Pack 1 adds several little features, like better client USB device support, new support for Microsoft Office Communication Server (OCS) and Voice over Internet Protocol.

Like all feature packs from Citrix, XenDesktop 4 Feature Pack 1 is free for customers whose subscription advantage programs are up to date. Although it's not groundbreaking, FP1 has a bevy of new features and enhancements that move XenDesktop that much closer to being able to support every corporate desktop use case.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog, BrianMadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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