What is Citrix HDX?

Citrix's updated desktop virtualization product, XenDesktop 4, features upgrades to HDX -- but what exactly is HDX?

Citrix recently revealed the newest version of its desktop virtualization product, XenDesktop 4. XenDesktop 4 has...

a lot of new features, one of them being an update to HDX.

But what is HDX?

First and foremost, HDX is not a feature or a technology -- it is a brand. Short for "High Definition Experience," HDX is the umbrella term that encapsulates several different Citrix technologies.

HDX came to be because Citrix is finally getting competitive pressure on its Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) protocol. ICA has always had a good reputation and has generally been perceived as a differentiator for Citrix.

But now, Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol Version 7 is leaps-and-bounds better than any previous version, and VMware is just a few months away from releasing a software version of Teradici's PC-over-IP protocol.

Citrix's reaction to these competitive pressures has been to elevate the conversation above the protocol. Citrix must think, "What's the goal of improving a remote display protocol, when the goal of a protocol is to provide a great user experience?"

In other words, a great user experience is more than just a protocol, and Citrix created the HDX brand to discuss all the elements -- in addition to ICA -- that Citrix claims allow it to deliver the best user experience.

Citrix has created several sub-brands under HDX, such as HDX MediaStream, HDX RealTime and HDX 3D. Each of these brands has a variety of technologies under it. For example, HDX Plug-in-Play supports client USB devices, multiple monitors, client printers, client drive mapping, local port mapping, smart cards and scanners.

There are too many aspects of HDX to list here -- more than 60, according to Citrix. In addition, the "Adaptive Orchestration" feature of HDX is another generic brand that refers to the fact that most of the various HDX components can adjust themselves on-demand, based on the current characteristics of the connection and the client device.

Finally, note that HDX doesn't refer to the capabilities of a single product within Citrix's lineup.

For example, Citrix bought WAN acceleration vendor Orbital Data back in 2006, and Orbital's products have evolved into what's now called Citrix's "Branch Repeater." And Branch Repeater is part of the HDX IntelliCache brand -- along with client bitmap caching, progressive-display drawing and branch-level caching of streamed apps.

That's pretty much all there is to HDX!

While HDX itself isn't anything too interesting, it's definitely doing its job of raising awareness that there's a lot more to a good user experience than just a remote display protocol.

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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