Citrix aims for VDI cost cuts with App-DNA, HDX on a chip

To broaden VDI adoption, Citrix must reduce the cost of VDI. With its App-DNA acquisition and other advances, it's closer to achieving this goal.

IT pros interested in a move from PCs to virtual desktop technology but fear the cost could see some reprieve as a result of some technology advancements coming from Citrix Systems.

Citrix disclosed this week at its Synergy conference in Barcelona, that it will acquire App-DNA, which makes the application migration and management tool AppTitude. The software could give Citrix customers a faster way to virtualize apps. The company also added new technology that could lower the cost of moving from PCs to a virtual desktop environment.That news follows Quest Software Inc.'s announcement that it acquired ChangeBASE, a technology similar to AppTitude that automates application migration analysis, remediation and conversion processes.

Lowering the cost of VDI

For VDI to go mainstream, it can't cost more than the installation of physical PCs. Many Citrix acquisitions either add some value to its flagship product, XenDesktop, or aim to cut the cost of desktop virtualization. That's the case with AppTitude, which is designed to save administrators a lot of time and, consequently, saves companies money.

The software provides application compatibility analysis and identifies which applications can be automatically ported to upgraded platforms and which ones are going to need extra help. It also helps package applications for virtualization, which at least in theory should help ease subsequent migrations, according to Rachel Chalmers, an analyst at The 451 Group.

The software packages apps for use with application virtualization products including Microsoft Installer (MSI), Microsoft App-V and Citrix XenApp.

One AppTitude customer who has had good experiences with the software expressed concern about the impact of the acquisition, because the software tells admins when apps should not be used with Citrix XenApp.

"XenApp is not a silver bullet for all applications, so to truly see the benefit of App-DNA's AppTitude, they need to continue full support of the current product," said Jeff Moore, an IT manager for a Montana-based financial services firm.

"In our application imports, we found that many of our applications were not best fit for the XenApp environment; however, we were able to test against the other scenarios and find the best fit," Moore added.

As a close Microsoft partner, Citrix supports Microsoft's App-V. The company is likely to continue its support of Microsoft-related capabilities in the product.

The best case scenario for AppTitude customers is for Citrix to expand features and functions. Moore said he would like to test against more environmental variables. One such example might be to determine if an application is a good fit for specific versions of XenApp that run on specific versions of Windows server. By understanding how a Citrix client might interact with that application would make AppTitude a more valuable tool.

Citrix did not provide details on product innovation or how it will license AppTitude. For now, App-DNA continues to be offered through AppTitude partners.

HDX on a chip

Citrix also said it has adapted its remote desktop protocol technology, HDX, onto chips so that it can come pre-installed on client hardware.

Citrix said that by putting HDX technology directly on client chips, it can lower the cost of desktop virtualization, since it cuts the cost of providing HDX infrastructure.

It also expands the market for virtual desktops beyond PCs, tablets and smartphones to devices such as network monitors, phones, smart keyboards and kiosks. With HDX chips, those devices can display virtual apps and desktops.

The "HDX system-on-a-chip" initiative involves partners Texas Instruments and NComputing. It is initially for ARM-based chipsets, but future versions will support x86 based systems, according to Citrix.

The first devices that use the new HDX system-on-a-chip technology should arrive in early 2012 -- and include zero-clients below the $100 price point.

Free Citrix tools

Finally, Citrix said it will release a free Virtual Desktop Assessment Tool in early November that provides an inventory of all the devices, applications and end-user usage patterns. The tool makes recommendations on the use of XenDesktop FlexCast desktop delivery models, master image configuration and application portfolio, organized by user groups.

The Citrix Virtual Desktop Assessment tool will be available via the Citrix Success Accelerator -- which is also free.

Previously, Citrix also launched a new, rebranded version of the Kaviza VDI-in-a-box software for the SMB market that doesn't have the infrastructure requirements of more scalable VDI software.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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