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Intel, Citrix To Collaborate On Virtualized Desktops

A two-tier virtualization hierarchy, where a central server feeds interactions to a corporate desktop and a client hypervisor takes over after the user disconnects, is envisioned.

Intel and Citrix Systems are teaming up to answer the question of how to realize gains in desktop virtualization that match those already being reaped in data center server virtualization.

Intel has agreed to make changes to its vPro virtualization technology that it designs into its chips. In the second half of 2009, chips will be produced with vPro "optimized" to accommodate a hypervisor on the client as well as Citrix XenServer server-side hypervisor. Such an adaptation would set up a two-tier virtualization hierarchy, where a central server feeds interactions to a corporate desktop, then a client hypervisor takes over after the user disconnects.

The server hypervisor would remain the senior partner. Once reconnected, the laptop would check in with the server hypervisor to receive updates and security changes; until the user disconnected again, the server hypervisor would be in charge of delivering the corporate desktop image. In effect, the mobile computer would be under the administration of a central authority, but the user's desktop would be free to move around with him on a laptop or whatever computing device he uses to call it up.

This approach "gives the data center control but delivers a mobile image to run on the laptop," said Louis Shipley, group VP and general manager of Citrix's XenServer product group. "The end user doesn't have to make compromises that he had to make before."

Gregory Bryant, VP of the Intel Client Group, said Intel was "happy to have Citrix deliver the specifications for client virtualization. This addresses some of the barriers to implementation. It brings client virtualization to the mainstream and the masses."

The collaboration, announced Wednesday, raises questions about whether Intel continues to see a level playing field among all virtualization vendors or has decided to throw in its lot with Citrix as the most likely candidate to unleash a new round of virtualization aimed at the desktop.

Citrix said it expects the two parties to follow public standards where they exist, but Raj Dhingra, general manager of the Citrix Desktop Delivery Group, in a follow-up interview, made it clear the first goal of the agreement will be to deliver "a secure client virtual machine based on XenServer."

He did not anticipate that VMware would be able to match the two-tier hierarchy of hypervisors based on Intel's additions to vPro. The vPro changes will appear in early versions of the Nehalem chip, enabling a new round of virtualization based on hardware manufactured with it, Dhingra said.

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