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Citrix Adds Desktop Virtualization For Mobile PCs

XenDesktop upgrade lets end users run laptop applications in a virtual machine, even when disconnected from a virtualized server.

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Citrix Systems is expanding the reach of its desktop virtualization offering to include mobile laptops, those unsecured and often unconnected devices carrying corporate data. Citrix said yesterday that its approach to virtualization can help with both.

Desktop virtualization is complicated enough when hundreds or thousands of users are connected at all times to central servers on a network. The problems mount, however, when users are frequently disconnected. Previous versions of XenDesktop have had a limited ability to cope with disconnected users and, therefore, "were not really practical for laptop users," conceded Sumit Dhawan, VP of product marketing, in a briefing before the Aug. 25 launch. Version 4 with Feature Pack 2 is meant to address the issue, he said.

XenDesktop Version 4, Feature Pack 2, will be available at the end of September with a XenClient hypervisor included. XenClient was first announced in May. It allows an end user to run his laptop applications in a virtual machine, regardless of whether the laptop is connected to a virtualized office server. The hypervisor was jointly developed by Citrix and Intel so that it could take advantage of the latest virtualization shortcuts, security enhancements, and management controls outside the operating system that have been built into its Core vPro chips, including certain versions of Nehalem.

XenDesktop also will have the capability of storing all data generated by each end user in an encrypted file, the XenVault. To make use of the feature, however, each end user's laptop must be loaded with Citrix Receiver client software. XenVault is enabled through a plug-in that works with Receiver.

The two features have been added as part of XenDesktop and are free to current users of either the Enterprise or Platinum editions of XenDesktop and XenApp, said Dhawan in his Aug. 24 press briefing. XenApp is the Citrix software that runs virtualized applications on a central server.

The additions give XenDesktop the ability to encrypt and store data generated by an end user from any XenApp or XenDesktop hosted application. Once the data is put in the XenVault folder, it can only be accessed by its authorized user. At the same time, it can be erased by remote signal, if the laptop is lost or stolen and an illegitimate user attempts to connect it to the home office network.

A laptop that experiences a crash of its XenClient virtual machine can get it restored to its most recent state through its connection to a XenDesktop server. A XenDesktop synchronizer updates the user's virtual machine on the laptop and keeps a synchronized copy of its data on the central server. "If the business virtual machine is lost on the laptop, it can be recovered from the server. If you lose the laptop, you don't need to wait 3-5 days to recover. The users themselves can recover their environments (on a replacement machine). It's self-service disaster recovery," Dhawan said.

The XenClient hypervisor and XenDesktop-generated business desktop can reside on a laptop without disturbing the user's personal computing environment on the same machine. The ability to have separate desktops is useful for contract workers who may temporarily need a set of business applications for the current job but wish to maintain their own professional desktop outside that project, Dhawan said.

Citrix claims it is the leader in virtualized desktop computing and has sold over 3 million virtualized desktops since the start of 2010. Half of the Fortune 100 companies use its approach. It has over 100 customers operating at least 1,000 virtualized end user desktops, said Dhawan.

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