Today Citrix announced the release of XenDesktop 4, their next generation Virtual Desktop solution with the promise of being able to deliver the best desktop experience to any user in an organization. Along with 70 enhancements and new features, Citrix is positioning XenDesktop 4 as the most flexible virtual desktop solution, with the most open architecture, supporting all types of client devices and hypervisors including Citrix XenServer™, Microsoft Hyper-V™, VMware ESX™, and vSphere™.

What’s new in XenDesktop 4

The major enhancements are in the areas of end user experience and improved infrastructure reliability. As we have seen with Citrix in the past, all of these new features will be available to Windows-based client devices; non-Windows devices will be able to take advantage of a subset of these features.

Citrix’ HDX™ technology provides high definition experience for users and includes all the ICA protocol features. Enhancements to the HDX library in XenDesktop 4 include:

  • HDX MediaStream – Flash Redirection, Audio Optimization (New Codecs), Media Foundation support and Dynamic Frame Rate tuning
  • HDX Plug-n-Play – Multi-monitor support with L, U and T shape configurations, Smartcard enhancements and enriched USB support
  • HDX RealTime – USB Webcams, Flash based video conferencing and VOiP
  • HDX 3D – Support for 3D graphics applications
  • HDX Intellicache – Integration with the Citrix Branch Repeater for ICA optimization

Network engineering need not be concerned over the addition of such rich protocols. Citrix has released new codecs that reduce the consumed bandwidth while still delivering rich content to users.

Creating a robust highly available virtual desktop solution with XenDesktop 4 will be easier with the infrastructure enhancements announced. Users will be able to connect to their assigned resource pools regardless of which corporate site they are connecting from with Site Roaming, or roaming user support. In the event of a site failure, users can now be redirected to an alternate site to get their desktop session.

Provisioning Services (PVS) has been enhanced with XenDesktop $ and now provides:

  • Support for NIC teaming
  • Multiple partition vDisks
  • User Assigned virtual disks – vDisk assignments are by User Group instead of by Machine
  • Server Maintenance Mode – PVS Server fail-over to other servers in the PVS farm
  • Offline Database support – Ability for PVS to continue to boot clients when the configuration database is unavailable

Integration with Citrix Password Manager for single sign-on and EdgeSight for monitoring and reporting is also available with this release.

An Open Platform

Citrix has positioned XenDesktop 4 as the only cross platform virtual desktop solution that supports Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESX, and vSphere hypervisors. Organizations can leverage their existing virtualization infrastructure or use a hybrid of multiple solutions. In addition to Citrix’s own ICA protocol, XenDesktop 4 provides native support for RDP and an SDK for additional protocol support to be added.

With the introduction of FlexCast™ delivery technology, an organization can deliver an application or desktop that best fits the needs of each user. FlexCast will provide a single access point to deliver:

  • Terminal Server (XenApp™) applications and desktops
  • VM-Hosted Desktops
  • Blade-PCs
  • Streamed or virtualized applications
  • Streamed Desktops

Application delivery has been the cornerstone of Citrix’ solutions for 20 years and they have improved this by adding the ability to publish VM-hosted applications. Unlike server-hosted applications where multiple users access the same instance of the application on a XenApp server, VM-hosted applications run on a dedicated virtual machine, isolated from other users, and can run on any supported platform, for example Windows XP. All users with a Citrix Receiver client will be able to take advantage of this feature.

Strong Positioning

Citrix has strongly positioned themselves in this market and has shown that they really “get it” when it comes to delivering applications and desktops to the enterprise. For most organizations there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to desktops, and there is a need to support a hybrid model of hosted, physical and virtual solutions in today’s small and large enterprises. The improved integration with the rest of the Citrix product offerings, HDX enhancements, and the centralization of access to applications and desktops with FlexCast, makes XenDesktop 4 a compelling solution for organizations to consider. XenDesktop 4 will be publicly available November 16, 2009.

For more information about creating your own Desktop Strategy download my white paper “Enterprise Desktop Strategy.”

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Joe Jessen (13 Posts)

Joe Jessen is an Analyst for Desktop Virtualization and End User Computing. Joe has extensive practical experience in enterprise solution implementation, system integration, network architecture, and security. Joe was formerly Chief Solutions Officer for Gotham Technology Group's Office of the CTO, Manager of Citrix Consulting Services and Global Director of Server Based Computing for FutureLink an international Application Service Provider

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