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Reporter's notebook: Deconstructing Citrix Synergy 2011

See how IT experts analyze vendor claims and industry trends at the Citrix annual confab. It's fun to see some get blown to bits!

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tech conferences are filled with vendors boasting about all their products can do for enterprise IT and evangelizing trends that may or may be under way.

IT managers and industry experts at Citrix Synergy here this week were not been shy about exposing the man behind the curtain. Here is what they had to say.

XenDesktop in 10 minutes or 10 months
Citrix XenDesktop is complex to install and manage, so in Version 5, the company added the wizard tool Desktop Studio, which it promises will deliver XenDesktops in 10 minutes. An IT manager at a manufacturing software company in Santa Barbara, Calif., said he tested XenDesktop 5 for 100 seats. The manager said he hopes to possibly roll out virtual desktops to about 1,500 end users. When asked if Desktop Studio actually lets him build, test and update desktops within the "10 minutes to install, 10 clicks to configure and 10 seconds to add new users," as promised, he laughed. "It should be called 10 months to Xen," the manager said.

(Perhaps that's why Citrix launched a free Web-based consulting program this week called The Success Accelerator to help companies successfully deploy XenDesktop.)

XenClient's long and rocky road to readiness
Citrix's XenClient client hypervisor gives IT professionals a way to provide offline access to XenDesktop-based virtual desktops. This is a feature customers requested for a long time, but the initial version had many limitations. Citrix launched XenClient 2.0 here this week, with more hardware support and features needed for enterprise-level acceptability, according to the company.

Robert Tooth, chief technology officer of Gibraltar Solutions Inc., which provides virtualization IT services, begs to differ. "It looks to be about 75% of the way there, on paper. I can foresee more innovation," he said. Specifically, the ability to install XenClient on end-user desktops in an automated way is necessary for large-scale deployment of XenClient, according to Tooth.

Graphic performance to endpoints still subpar
Virtual desktop performance has a lot to do with remote protocol technology, so advances in VMware's PC over IP (PCoIP), Microsoft's RemoteFX and Citrix HDX technologies are important. They all claim to deliver native graphics and video performance. But there are caveats.

Virtualization industry expert and blogger Brian Madden summed it up in his Geek Speak session here this week. "Graphics performance is still not the same as local performance, even with PCoIP, HDX and RemoteFX," he said. "Even with the best case, the graphics performance is only as good as what you'd get with a $300 netbook."

PCs, R.I.P.
Citrix is tolling the death knell of the PC. And vendors here are taking that theme seriously. Thin-client vendor Wyse's logo showing the letters "PC" crossed out in a red circle were all over Citrix Synergy. But the death of the fat client may be wildly exaggerated.

Michael Mestrovich, CIO of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told attendees that his organization is replacing its 12,000 thin clients with a mix of new thin clients and thick clients with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and application virtualization. The agency needs the thick clients because thin clients don't support the types of computation-intensive applications the government runs.

Other IT pros agreed that PCs are here to stay for the foreseeable future, because even though enterprise applications may not be rocket science, they may make heavy use of multimedia that even the best VDI technologies running on thin clients can't support.

No trend is more hyped than cloud computing
We've heard of cloud computing, public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. But Citrix CEO Mark Templeton this week trotted out the "personal cloud." On the second day of the show, Simon Crosby, Citrix's chief technology officer, took a swipe at the private cloud.

"Private cloud is not 'cloud,'" he said. "You have to pay for [the infrastructure] before you use it, and it comes with very costly engineers. The real public cloud delivers for one-twentieth the cost of your 'private cloud.' You cannot compete with public cloud. It will beat you, hands down."

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

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