XenDesktop 4 released, XenClient delayed.

Yesterday I spoke a representative of Citrix in The Hague. Topic of discussion was XenDesktop, XenClient and why the release of XenClient was delayed to Q1 2010.
Last June Citrix CEO Mark Templeton announced XenClient to be released in H2 2009, for free. This was during the openening keynote at iForum in Antwerp (this was already announced at Synergy).

What is XenClient?
For those of you who don’t know what XenClient is, XenClient is a client hypervisor for desktops / laptops. The client hypervisor creates an isolated environment for multiple virtual machines with (almost) native performance. This solution (probably) creates the following use-cases:
– Private and work environment (completely isolated from each other);
– Multiple OS versions running at the same time during transition (XP / Win7 / MacOS);
– Demo’s with multiple VM’s including a console (instead of a master image and type 2 vm’s);
– On demand streaming of OS to desktops / laptop (instant migration!);
– Offline VDI in combination with XenDesktop;
– Single image for all models (especially useful with laptops);

– etc.

Intel
The representative confirmed that XenClient is initiated (and even paid?) by Intel. Why? Because they can.
Intel is trying to push there products with virtualization technology to the desktops / laptops and expanding there market. For this they need practical use cases like a client hypervisor. In fact, they are doing the same with VMware who’s building a client hypervisor as well.

One of the reasons why Citrix might not release the XenClient is because it might be embedded in the Intel products. This would open a huge (potential) market for Citrix, the desktop space. And since the technology (and maybe even the resources to develop) for XenClient is given by Intel, Intel is pulling the strings.

Microsoft
Since the beginning of times Citrix there’s a strong relationship with Microsoft. Both companies create revenue for each other, and this is the foundation of there relationship.
Microsoft is really into the “new” efficiency. Both Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 are released and virtualization is one of the major topics. Just like the major players Citrix and VMware, Microsoft offers a VDI solution as well in Server 2008 R2, Remote Desktop Virtualization Host (RDVH). But RDVH is designed for small to medium environment just like Terminal Services (TS), ehhh Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH), is for “presentation virtualistion”.
Microsoft partners with a lot of companies to fill the gap between what Microsoft can offer, and what the customers’ needs.
For TS/RDSH Citrix offers XenApp as an “add-on”, which creates revenue for both sides. Microsoft needs a VDI partner for larger distributions for RDVH (VDI) as well, so this is where Citrix comes in as well.
So what happens if a client hypervisor is released? What type of license can Microsoft sell and how will this effect Microsoft’s products? Especially products like MED-V are, well, useless? So before all this is sorted out, and the relationship is not under pressure, there won’t be a release.

Citrix
With the release of XenDesktop 4 Citrix created a platform for “the new desktop”. Desktops shouldn’t be seen anymore as a physical device, but as a service. Where or what this desktop is shouldn’t be important for the end-user. So whether this is a physical a virtual / “VDI” or a TS / RDS / “session virtualisation” desktop it’s all possible. This creates some sort of combined XenDesktop / XenApp product with strange licensing models and probably new names in a short time 🙂

The release of this new version was so important that almost all resources went to the development of XenDesktop. The date was especially important because of the release of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. Why?
– Why not virtualize when migrating from XP ( / Vista) to Windows 7?;
– Remote Desktop Virtualization Host (RDVH) needs a “add-on” product;
– RDP7 offers much better performance and more features, so HDX was needed.

And the other products in the market are gaining more market share as well. Quest vWorkspace already offers a hybrid solution, a optimized display protocol and even (some desktop management). VMware view has more-or-less the same VDI solution and integrated Teradici PC-over-IP in there solution.

Conclusion
Citrix is back on track with the release of XenDesktop 4. Although the naming and licensing is a bit confusing, the solution is ready for the future. Most use-cases of VDI can be offered with XenDesktop and Citrix is in line with the Microsoft “new” efficiency strategy.
The client hypervisor implementation of Citrix, XenClient, might offers new use cases of XenDesktop. In my opinion these are very valuable and would make the adoption of XenDesktop, and VDI, realistic.

Ingmar Verheij

Was once an enthusiastic PepperByte employee but is now working at Citrix. His blogs are still valuable to us and we hope to you too.