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Citrix Promises Data-Intense Virtual Desktops

Intelligence being built into Citrix's XenDesktop 3 would effectively render the end-user presentation on the virtual desktop as an "HD experience."

Citrix is upping the ante in its bid it to lead the next round of enterprise virtualization. It says it's doubling the scalability of its XenDesktop virtualization software in Version 3, while enhancing the quality of the user experience that it can deliver.

At a future date, Citrix will deliver the ability to produce a virtual desktop in the data center and stream it to the desktop, where it will run under its own hypervisor on the end user's hardware. Most desktop virtualization schemes have the desktop image running on a central server, with just the user presentation sent down the wire.

Many of presumed efficiency gains in desktop virtualization come from managing desktop images on central servers. Citrix is aiming to hang on to that advantage, while enabling the virtual desktop to run on an end user's machine as well.

Citrix is building intelligence into its XenDesktop 3 so that it can effectively render the end-user presentation. It assesses the content on a central server to be presented to an end user, the speed of the network, and the graphical and processing characteristics of the end user machine.

"XenDesktop can ask, what's on the main server, what is the speed of the network, what is the processing power of a thin client (or desktop PC). If there's no graphical processor on a thin client, it doesn't process video or multimedia there. If there is, it takes advantage of local resources," said Raj Dhingra, group VP and general manager of the Citrix desktop delivery group, in an interview.

Citrix can offer its proprietary ICA protocol for speedy delivery of processing intensive user content, such as multimedia, 3-D graphics, and map drawing. "XenDesktop can decide on-the-fly whether to run the graphics locally (on the end user machine) or in the data center," he added. XenServer 5 hypervisor has been added to XenDesktop, even though it was previously sold as a separate product. With desktop virtualization, there's still a need for a back-end hypervisor to generate virtual machines. Those VMs then get provisioned and deployed to end users by the desktop virtualization software. XenServer has been optimized for desktop VM supervision. Under Version 5, it can manage 50 running virtual desktops on a central server instead of 25, Dhingra said.

Citrix has given its content delivery intelligence the name MediaStream. Dhingra said its ability to bring voice over IP, video, USB device content, or other intensive, end-user data to the virtual desktop in the most efficient manner will result in HDX or the "high-definition experience."

"HDX leverages the entire delivery system, the data center, the LAN and WAN, and the local end user device," he said. Full leverage awaits delivery of the desktop hypervisor in the second half of this year. Citrix is developing it in cooperation with Intel. Intel will add hooks for desktop hypervisor operation into future desktop chip architectures.

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