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Citrix makes its own announcements during VMworld

While most attention was focused on VMware during its VMworld conference, Citrix announced a release date for its client hypervisor and plans for a secure storage locker.

VMware's annual VMworld conference wrapped up a few weeks ago. Most of the news media focused on VMware's announcements, like the release of View 4.5 and the upcoming Project Horizon. Since VMworld is a major virtualization industry conference, Citrix was there, too, with a few desktop-specific announcements.

First and foremost, Citrix had a normal-sized booth this year. Last year, the company's representatives were confined to the "non-partner" maximum booth size of 10 feet by 10 feet. For 2010, VMware allowed its rival to have a booth size of its choosing (20x10).

In the desktop space, Citrix had two major announcements around the show.

First, Citrix announced a release date for its client hypervisor. XenClient it will be included in XenDesktop 4 Feature Pack 2, which will ship in the end of September. XenClient has been in beta/tech preview for about a year, and plenty of people have gotten their hands on it. Citrix is pitching it as a part of XenDesktop -- Enterprise Edition and above -- which will allow users to run their virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) desktops locally.

Citrix is positioning XenClient a bit differently than VMware View 4.5's new "local mode" feature. XenClient is geared for environments where the desktop will primarily be run locally on the client, with backups and synchronizations taking place over the network. VMware, on the other hand, is aiming View 4.5 Local Mode at users who primarily access their desktops via remote VDI but who occasionally need to take them offline via a "check out" feature.

This difference in philosophy is apparent from how the products are architected. Citrix XenClient "takes over" the client device -- becoming the low-level operating system on top of which every other OS runs in a virtual machine (VM). VMware View offline mode is more like the free VMware Player, which runs as an app on top of the existing OS. Which is better? It depends on your users' needs and whether they will run the managed VM on their clients as their primary OS instance or as an occasional offline instance.

Citrix's other big desktop announcement around VMware is the release of XenVault, which will also be made available as part of XenDesktop 4 Feature Pack 2 (Enterprise and above) later this month. XenVault is an encrypted, secure storage locker that's available locally on client devices that hook into XenDesktop- and XenApp-managed back ends. Its purpose is to provide a secure location for corporate data and temporary files on insecure (and potentially unmanaged) client devices. This will help companies be more comfortable with extending their local applications and data to employee-owned laptops.

Citrix stressed that both XenClient and XenVault are "v1"-type releases that will provide basic functionality. But we can expect rapid improvements in both as the technologies are adopted over time.

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