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Citrix XenDesktop 5.5 packs RingCube, XenApp and WAN boost

Citrix fortifies XenDesktop 5.5 with RingCube's app delivery feature, along with XenApp 6.5 in virtual desktop race against VMware.

IT pros using XenDesktop can upgrade to XenDesktop 5.5 now to get the application personalization features Citrix acquired from RingCube Technologies -- at no extra cost.

With the HDX protocol enhancements in XenDesktop 5.5, customers can also deliver virtual desktops to remote users without the help of third-party WAN accelerators. Citrix also integrated a new version of XenApp (6.5) and XenClient 2 into XenDesktop 5.5 and announced Receiver supports more devices.

With these disclosures, Citrix hopes to blunt VMware's marketing blitz in advance of VMware's annual VMworld confab next week. VMware will launch View 5, with expected user profile management features and other long-awaited improvements.

One desktop virtualization consultant said the breadth of improvements in XenDesktop 5.5 put Citrix strides ahead of the competition in the desktop virtualization race.

XenDesktop 5.5 with RingCube
The new "Personal vDisk" feature Citrix gained from its RingCube acquisition this month lets IT pool user profile data and applications centrally and deliver those apps as part of a personalized virtual desktop.

This feature is now included in all versions of XenDesktop 5.5 -- from Standard to Platinum Editions -- at no extra cost. But, this initial vDisk release is considered an "early access" version. Customers are advised to use it in testing with XenDesktop 5.5, but not into production until Citrix completes integration testing.

Still, the Personal vDisk feature will be a valuable tool for many XenDesktop customers, particularly those that want a simple way to deliver personalized virtual desktops to end users.

"It will expedite a whole category of VDI projects by allowing the personalized elements of existing desktops to be moved over to a shared VDI model," said Steve Greenberg, head of the virtualization services firm Thin Client Computing in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In fact, including vDisk as a XenDesktop 5.5 feature could have the biggest impact on VDI adoption of any improvements released this year, said independent desktop virtualization analyst Simon Bramfitt.

"This is the missing link between VDI and personal computing," Bramfitt said. "It will [provide] organizations set on using VDI a degree of personalization that we are constantly being told is part of the consumerization of IT."

HDX enhancements improved WAN performance
Though the recent RingCube acquisition made headlines, the WAN performance improvements in HDX have caught the attention of IT pros. Citrix claims HDX delivers 50% better WAN performance and protocol optimizations that lower latency from 500 milliseconds to 40 milliseconds. Citrix claims the improvements are such that WAN optimization products are completely unnecessary.

VMware recently announced improvements to the View remote display protocol, PCoIP, to reduce bandwidth consumption and boost virtual desktop performance over WAN. But IT pros using it say performance problems persist and third-party WAN optimization products such as Riverbed are necessary.

Thin Client Computing's Greenberg said WAN performance improvements and other HDX enhancements address a growing need for desktop virtualization -- support for branch office and work-at-home scenarios.

With the WAN improvements, for instance, IT can deliver double the number of virtual desktops to remote users at a reduced cost. Of course, the real percentage increase and any cost savings depend on the environment and the link.

Some of the 150 HDX improvements for XenDesktop 5.5 include flash redirection enhancements, much faster local printing and scanning capabilities and support for Windows Aero display. It also includes video and voice performance improvements for video conferencing.

XenClient 2 and Receiver
XenClient 2 is integrated into XenDesktop 5.5. Citrix expanded the XenClient hardware compatibility list and Citrix also made XenClient 2 simpler for the average end user's usage.

For example, end users can now run two separate virtual desktop environments on a XenClient laptop but those desktop VMs appear as one environment, so there isn't a need to toggle between separate corporate and personal VMs.

Citrix also improved Receiver capabilities for various touch-based devices and it is supported on more devices.

XenDesktop 5.5, XenApp 6.5 and XenClient 2 are all available for download from Citrix's website. XenDesktop 5.5 pricing starts at $95 per user, device or concurrent user for the VDI-only edition. The Enterprise or Platinum editions are priced on a per user or per device basis at $225 and $350, respectively.

XenClient 2 is available standalone as a free download from the Citrix website and included along with the Citrix Synchronizer for XenClient with XenDesktop Enterprise and Platinum.

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

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