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Citrix blended strategy could drive virtual desktop adoption

Citrix hopes to woo IT shops to virtual desktops by bundling XenApp with XenDesktop 4 and delivering desktops to more devices.

With its revamped desktop strategy, Citrix Systems Inc. wants to make adoption of virtual desktops simpler for IT pros who are still unsure about whether or not the technology is a good investment today.

Citrix disclosed plans for XenDesktop v4.0 earlier this week. As previously reported by, Citrix has simplified its licensing policy, added compatibility with more devices and will include a full version of XenApp in Enterprise and Platinum editions of XenDesktop v4.0, which is due out on Nov. 16. Together, these initiatives could drive adoption of virtual desktops in enterprises still mulling the idea.

Folding XenApp into XenDesktop 4.0 is significant because it creates a single product that covers all use cases, said Barb Goldworm, chief analyst at Focus, a Boulder, Colo.-based analyst firm.

It also simplifies Citrix's product portfolio, removing some of the complexity surrounding desktop virtualization, which -- in addition to cost -- is a major adoption hurdle.

For example, Christian Metz, a senior systems administrator at Orange County United Way, said although he is slowly adding desktop virtualization, the cost and complexity have kept his organization from full adoption.

According to a study by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), an analyst firm in Boulder, Colo., the majority of endpoint virtualization users deploy more than one style at the same time, so bundling the two makes sense for real-world users. Andi Mann, an analyst at EMA, said combining desktop virtualization technologies could open it up to more enterprises.

"Now, if you have a XenDesktop license, you also have a XenApp license, so it is a much more flexible model," Mann said.

In addition, IT pros can issue desktops to all types of devices using a technology in XenDesktop 4 called FlexCast. This delivery software supports every major desktop virtualization model in a single, integrated platform, and it delivers desktops to any end user on any type of device, including smartphones and Macs, according to Citrix.

Even though Citrix's desktops on end-user devices are atypical, they gives end users flexibility, Mann said. "They may be making too much of the use of it on things like iPhone -- it is early for that -- but they are showing off how flexible they can be," he said.

To free desktops for use on devices besides PCs, Citrix had to change its licensing model from a concurrent policy to a per-user one, giving user their own Citrix connection licenses so they can connect to their desktops from any device.

"Per-user licensing means you don't have to worry about how you implement it, and the licensing will be cheaper overall, because it can be used on many different technologies, addressing everyone in the company, no matter which flavor of desktop virtualization solution they need," Goldworm said.

Together, all of these initiatives remove desktop virtualization limitations and add significant cost benefits that could encourage adoption, Goldworm said.

Citrix tightens ties with Microsoft
Citrix XenDesktop v4 will also begin shipping with Microsoft Hyper-V, and the two companies are working together to simplify the management of physical and virtual desktops and applications via the Microsoft System Center management platform. Citrix and Microsoft also plan to further integrate technologies such as Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) into the Citrix XenDesktop.

Some experts theorized that Windows 7 will drive desktop virtualization adoption because customers will want to migrate their existing desktops to Windows 7 without buying new desktop hardware.

"When Windows 7 gets adopted, businesses are going to have to upgrade all of these legacy desktops that they have been holding onto for five, six, seven years," said Tony Wilburn, a desktop virtualization consultant at Arlington, Va.-based IT services company "When they start comparing the costs of 2,000 new desktops versus the cost of 2,000 virtual machines, that's when everyone will start moving toward virtual desktops."

XenDesktop 4 will be available in three editions; Standard ($75 per user, which does not include XenApp), Enterprise Edition ($225 per user) and Platinum Edition ($350 per user). The Enterprise Edition and Platinum Edition both include XenApp.

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

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