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Citrix HDX Ready thin clients don't always support advertised features

Citrix's "HDX Ready" program doesn't have any kind of versioning or date controls. So, "HDX Ready" thin clients don't always support all the HDX features that Citrix advertises.

You might think that when you buy new thin clients with the "HDX Ready" logo, all of the latest features in Citrix's remoting protocol will be supported. But these devices may not be as "ready" as you'd expect.

Citrix uses the "HDX" brand to describe all the various capabilities of its core remoting protocol it uses to deliver data center-based applications and desktops to client devices. In many ways, "HDX" replaces what Citrix used to call "ICA," and in today's world, it applies to both XenApp and XenDesktop environments.

There are more than a dozen individual technologies and capabilities that fall under the "HDX" umbrella, including USB device support, client printing, multi-monitor, smart cards, VoIP, client audio, multimedia redirection, Flash support, etc.

The problem is that not every HDX feature is supported on every client platform. For example, the Mac client doesn't support multimedia redirection; the Linux client doesn't support Session Reliability. In fact, Citrix even publishes a "Client Feature Matrix" that provides a detailed list of which features are supported on which clients.

Of course, this is nothing new, as IT pros have spent the last 15 years trying to figure out which features were supported on which clients.

Citrix has also known that general compatibility and feature levels can be confusing for the market, and, in fact, several years ago they launched a "Citrix Ready" logo program, where partners could certify that their solutions have completed verification testing thereby providing customer confidence in joint solution compatibility.

Unfortunately, when it came to client devices -- specifically thin clients -- the "Citrix Ready" program left a lot to be desired. Client devices certified to be "Citrix Ready" were only required to have a very basic level of HDX compatibility. So, just because that shiny new thin client device appears in the "Citrix Ready" catalog doesn't mean that it actually supports all the latest HDX features.

In order to address potentially disappointed customers who bought "Citrix Ready" thin clients hoping for the latest and greatest support, Citrix then introduced a new device certification program called "HDX Ready."

At this point, you're thinking, "Ahh… OK, so this is the program that verifies that a particular thin client device supports all the latest and greatest!" But you're wrong.

It turns out that the "HDX Ready" logo program doesn't have any kind of versioning or date controls. So, even though that new device you bought carries the "HDX Ready" certification, you still have no idea whether it will support all the features of HDX that Citrix advertises. For example, the Wyse Xenith zero client is certified as "HDX Ready," but it doesn't support Flash redirection. Citrix confirmed that "HDX" doesn't necessarily equate to "client side rendering," but then the HDX Ready certification criteria suggests that it does, meaning the Wyse Xenith is certified even though it doesn't do all the client-side rendering that it seems like it should.

I don't mean to pick on Wyse here, as there are plenty examples of these kinds of discrepancies across many products that have been certified. The bottom line is two-fold: First, if you buy a device that's certified as "HDX Ready," we've seen plenty of examples where they don't actually support all the capabilities that they're supposed to. And second, a new device today might actually meet the "HDX Ready" criteria from last year (meaning that it should be certified), but Citrix may have subsequently released more HDX features since then, meaning that your "HDX Ready" thin client isn't actually as ready as you thought it would be.

Buyer, beware.

Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog, BrianMadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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