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Zen and the art of desktop maintenance

Application delivery major Citrix this week formally launched the virtual desktop application branded as XenDesktop, writes Puneet Mehrotra.
None | By Puneet Mehrotra
UPDATED ON MAY 23, 2008 08:11 PM IST

Imagine a world where we could access our desktop experience on any computer in our world and be able to use all the applications that we normally do without really having those applications installed on our computer. Sounds great right? Well that's exactly what the new generation of virtualization promises.

The Virtualization Experience

Virtualization is a hot topic in the IT world. If on a basic level Google Docs and Office Live give a basic experience on using applications without installing them companies like Citrix are getting the experience to the enterprise level. Perhaps the win-win situation it creates in the need for high end computing yet keeping the computer as simple and application free as possible has created the huge virtualization opportunity. According to Gordon Payne, senior vice president and general manager, Delivery Systems Division, Citrix Systems "Desktop virtualization is a rapidly expanding new market with tremendous upside potential."

XenDesktop - a virtual experience

Consider the case of XenDesktop, a desktop delivery solution which allows companies to virtualize Windows desktop in the data centre and deliver them on demand to office workers in any location, anywhere, anytime. The only requirement is an internet connection.

Andi Mann, research director, Enterprise Management Associates says, "In desktop virtualization environments, separating the applications from the desktop operating system provides IT organisations with greater flexibility, scalability and manageability of the overall desktop delivery solution. It simplifies desktop lifecycle management by consolidating desktops and applications down to just a few standardized images that can be dynamically combined for individual users' needs." He goes on to add "This model combines the cost advantages of server-based computing delivery with the user satisfaction of a personalized desktop experience - both of which are key drivers in the broader adoption of desktop virtualization."

The Offering

The XenDesktop product line offers customers a choice of five different editions with varying levels of functionality designed to make desktop virtualization a mainstream reality for customers of all sizes and use cases. These editions include a free version called Express Edition - free desktop virtualization for up to 10 users. Then there is a Standard Edition which offers a cost-effective, but high performance, entry-level desktop virtualization solution suitable for departmental implementations. The Advanced Edition offers enterprise desktop virtualization solution for organizations that have an existing application delivery already in place. Advanced Edition adds powerful virtual desktop provisioning capabilities that reduce storage costs and simplify desktop lifecycle management by enabling a single desktop image to dynamically create and update hundreds of virtual desktops on demand. There are also Enterprise and Platinum editions for different clients. In terms of pricing the basis is concurrent users. The cost ranges from free for the express download to $395 for the platinum user.

Piggyback Riding

It isn't just the application delivery and software development that are betting on the virtualization wave to sweep the industry. Hardware companies like Wyse, HP and others hoping virtualization will drive thin client sales. Consider the case of HP 2533t Mobile Thin Client which is probably betting on a totally new segment of consumers.

The Last Word

From the days of gotomypc in early 2000's to the current virtualization wave this has always been a hot topic. Will the virtualization wave really convert organizations into consumers and generate business and revenues is a question only time will tell considering the current penetration is less than 10%. Having said that the convenience and value prosposition virtualization offers is simply too powerful to be ignored.

Puneet Mehrotra writes on technology.

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