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Citrix Project Avalon offers BYOD shops Windows as a Service

Project Avalon isn't available yet, but already IT pros are speculating about whether it has the potential to transform enterprise environments to the cloud.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Citrix expects Project Avalon to help enterprise IT move to the cloud era, and while the promise of this latest platform interests customers, the premise is nothing new.

With Avalon, IT can use existing Citrix Systems Inc. virtualization and cloud platforms to deliver Microsoft Windows desktops and applications as a cloud service, said CTO Mark Templeton at the Citrix Synergy 2012 conference last week.

It is similar to what Desktop as a Service (DaaS) providers have offered for years, and some IT pros question whether it will be all that transformative.

"If you have a cloud provider, you can do all this today manually," said Shawn Bass, an independent virtualization consultant based in Chicago, during a podcast discussion with industry expert and blogger Brian Madden.

The difference with Project Avalon is that it ties together the breadth of Citrix's existing desktop and application virtualization products with cloud services. It runs them on a new Citrix CloudPlatform based on Apache CloudStack and includes a cloud-style service orchestration layer that sits above XenApp and XenDesktop.

Project Avalon provides a bridge to the cloud

Avalon will allow Citrix customers to roll out new desktops, applications and features, and also "mix and match" different versions of Windows Server, XenDesktop and XenApp across any combination of public and private clouds.

IT can use Avalon to shift apps and desktops into public clouds to deliver capacity on demand. This type of service will benefit IT pros that want to deploy one-off virtual desktops as needed, said Colin Bradford, CTO of Fujitsu UK.

More news from Citrix
Synergy 2012:

Citrix integrates NxTop and XenClient, introduces Project Avalon

HP and Dell churn out VDI hardware as thin client war heats up

BYOD shops get Citrix Receiver, CloudGateway 2 and ShareFile combo

"Traditionally, IT has always had to provision for the peak, but there is always a gap between the peak and the baseline deployments," Bradford said.

With Project Avalon, IT can deploy for the lowest number of employees and then light up new desktops as needed, which means no more wasting unused licenses.

It will also allow IT to "burst or drain" clouds on demand, Citrix said. Bursting simply means IT can instantly light up a new desktop quickly, during a merger when new employees need to be brought on board. Draining means to migrate those new employees from the cloud back into the on-premises data center.

"It could be an interesting change to how enterprises consume and use IT services," Bradford said.

Can Avalon legally deliver Windows 7?

Licensing for DaaS has been a point of contention for providers, and questions still remain when it comes to Project Avalon's promise of delivering a true multi-tenancy Windows 7 desktop in the cloud.

Citrix would not provide licensing specifics but said that Project Avalon will be fully compliant with existing Microsoft licensing whether customers want a full instance of Windows 7 or whether they use Windows Server 2008 R2 images instead.

"There's no compliancy issue," said Kevin Strohmeyer, director of product marketing for Citrix's desktops and apps group. "Other than if a service provider wants to buy a desktop license and resell that. That's the piece that's missing."

Further, Citrix said it has been working closely with Microsoft and that Redmond has begun to shift its views from the licensing DaaS scenario of "Windows on devices toward Windows connected to devices."

Making that subtle change, Citrix said, has taken longer than service providers have hoped.

Microsoft could not be reached for comment.

Read our complete Citrix Synergy 2012 conference coverage here.

Let us know what you think about the story; email James Furbush or follow @JamesFurbush on Twitter; like on Facebook.

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