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Citrix addresses IT pro demands for VDI tools, support

At its annual conference this week, Citrix Systems showered IT shops with products and technologies that reflect a general maturing of the virtual desktop market.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Citrix Systems addressed a number of IT pro demands for VDI-related product enhancements this week with several virtual desktop management tools and more ways to manage cloud-based applications in the enterprise.

At the Synergy conference held here, the company showed an updated version of its XenClient client hypervisor, HDX performance enhancements, an updated application management portal similar to VMware's Horizon App Manager, a free tool for enterprise IT to use on the iPad for remote desktop management, and more.

Some IT professionals said the products mark the start of mainstream adoption of virtual desktops and cloud computing.

"What we are seeing with these technologies is that we are at an inflection point in the old computing paradigm," said Don Lee, managing director of Ontario -based virtualization integration firm Gibraltar Solutions Inc. "It used to be that companies gave employees laptops and told them how it was to be used. Now, end users are dictating IT."

Citrix VDI offerings expand
Citrix wants to make XenDesktop simpler for enterprises to install and manage, since many XenDesktop projects fail because of their complexity. For example, one IT pro said his company uses XenApp, among other Citrix products, but it could not get XenDesktop to work. The Missouri health care organization switched to VMware View.

"It's a shame, because Citrix XenDesktop offers so much more," he said.

To help improve the success rate of XenDesktop projects, Citrix announced a free, online consulting service for XenDesktop customers called The Success Accelerator. IT pros can register their projects and describe their entire environments. Citrix consultants and partners will provide customized tips, reference architectures and integration and design suggestions.

In XenDesktop 5, Citrix also added installation and management wizards. XenDesktop 5 Service Pack 1 supports the XenServer IntelliCache feature, which reduces virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) storage costs.

Citrix also acquired Kaviza's VDI-in-a-box product this week to give small and midsized businesses an entry point for VDI. The product supports Citrix technologies including HDX, and it will carry the Citrix logo later this year.

Citrix Receiver, XenClient and HDX
An updated Citrix Receiver with more device support and the ability to run from any browser impressed some conference attendees. Citrix demonstrated the delivery of Android apps to a Windows desktop via Citrix Receiver and the ability to deliver a Mac virtual desktop using XenDesktop on Mac hardware via Receiver.

Tied to the new Receiver abilities is the new NetScaler Cloud Gateway, a product that lets IT turn the Citrix Receiver into a portal for end users' personal, Software as a Service and enterprise apps. It can be accessed from any device using a single sign-on, so apps and data "follow" end users wherever they are.

The NetScaler Cloud Gateway, which ships in the third quarter of 2011, gives IT a way to control all the apps and their end users' access and to perform user provisioning, app workflow requests, licensing data and service-level agreements. Administrators can also cut access to data and apps remotely.

Citrix also previewed the second generation of XenClient, its bare-metal client hypervisor. XenClient 2 supports many more hardware platforms, including chips other than Intel vPro and AMD graphics support. The tradeoff for using non-vPro hardware is graphics fidelity, but high-definition video still runs with good performance, said Peter Blum, director of XenClient products.

Citrix also disclosed XenClient XT, a version of the bare-metal client hypervisor for "extreme" environments that require high security and isolation and need to run high-end graphics and modeling. It is due out in June.

In addition, the vendor announced GoToManage for the iPad. This tool lets IT pros take over an end user's entire system to troubleshoot it remotely on an iPad. It supports physical and virtual desktops and lets IT manage networks and servers. The tool is free for individual IT pros.

Support for new tools on the iPad is important, said IT pros, because iPads and other mobile devices are making their way deeper into enterprises. One admin at a manufacturing software company in Santa Barbara, Calif., said his organization adopted XenDesktop 5 this year because many of its employees need access to their desktops remotely, on iPads.

"It's what our users want to use," he said.

Citrix also improved the performance of its remote desktop protocol, HDX. It includes rich graphics support for Microsoft's RemoteFX.

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

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