Updated Citrix virtual desktop offers refreshed portal, management

Citrix XenDesktop 5.0 has big improvements, but upgrading from the previous version will be a bear, if not impossible.

Citrix Systems has made its next-generation virtual desktop software available for download, giving customers HDX enhancements, integration with XenClient for offline support, a new application portal and an updated architecture.

XenDesktop 5.0 includes the ability to encrypt corporate data on employee-owned PCs to support customers with bring-your-own-PC policies. IT departments that install Citrix's Type 1 client hypervisor, XenClient, can also add offline support to XenDesktop 5.0. Another major feature is Citrix Receiver, the reincarnated version of Dazzle, which lets end users access both local and Web-based applications securely with a single sign-on.

VMware, Citrix's biggest competitor for virtual desktops, started shipping its View 4.5 product with offline support with a Type 2 client hypervisor in September. VMware is also building an application delivery portal called Project Horizon, due out sometime next year.

Citrix disclosed the XenDesktop 5.0 features during its October conference in Berlin. The company said then the software would be ready in late 2010.

Citrix also said this version would take only 10 minutes to install thanks to new wizards and more intuitive interfaces. Complexity has been a serious issue for IT pros deploying XenDesktop. But Citrix had neglected to mention that there is no simple migration path from XenDesktop Version 4 to Version 5.0 because of major changes to the Internal Management Architecture (IMA), which served as the underpinning of previous versions. This means configurations on both the server and desktop side and all of the settings need to be rebuilt.

Some IT professionals said this isn’t a big deal, because the new architecture is a much needed improvement, and clean installs are common.

XenDesktop 5.0 is priced the same as XenDesktop 4.0, starting at $95 per user or per device for the VDI-only edition. The Enterprise or Platinum editions are priced at $225 and $350, respectively.

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