Desktop 365: A One-Stop, Compact VDI Solution

At Citrix Synergy 2015, MaximumBit announced the release of Desktop 365, a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution based on ViewSonic (yes, ViewSonic!) Intel-based hardware. Desktop 365 is aimed at addressing the hardware and software requirements associated with virtualized apps and desktops, as well as facilitating fast and easy administration. Like most of the new HCI solutions being released, Desktop 365 can technically address the VDI requirements of both service providers and small businesses; however, it is fundamentally different from other HCI solutions because it is truly a complete integration and extension of Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop.

Traditional VDI is complex and comprises a multitude of components. It has many moving parts, including base hardware, a hypervisor, storage, NetScaler Gateway, SQL Server, and the VDI-specific infrastructure itself. As a result, planning and deployment takes immense amounts of time and effort, which small and medium-sized businesses just cannot accommodate. While a subset of the SMB market finds cloud or service provider solutions to be appropriate, some businesses can’t or won’t outsource their corporate infrastructure and data due to security concerns or regulatory requirements. Thus, an easy-to-use, on-premises solution for XenApp and XenDesktop is needed.

The excitement about the product stems from the fact that full setup of Desktop 365 takes only a handful of minutes, and that’s definitely not just marketing talk. That’s coming straight from the keyboard of someone who has spent some time installing and critiquing the product. Once the initial administrative screens are configured, the system self-provisions in about thirty to forty minutes. Just leave the setup alone and go to lunch or a meeting, and upon return, a complete XenApp/XenDesktop environment will be available. The full setup includes a domain controller, SQL Server, NetScaler Gateway, and literally everything that is required to run a virtualization environment.

One very impressive aspect of Desktop 365 is the autoconfiguration of NetScaler Gateway. For those who knew and loved Secure Gateway, setup was simple and easy; it was a set-it-and-forget-it configuration, except for occasional updates and patches. The same is true for the NetScaler Gateway configuration by means of Desktop 365. Admittedly, for those who don’t work with NetScaler regularly, its configuration is unnecessarily complex; however, Desktop 365 removes that barrier for XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x deployment.

Desktop 365 is being marketed to address both the service provider markets and small businesses. While the embedded functionality would certainly address service provider managed services requirements, the most impressive market for this product is small businesses that wish to deploy virtualization in-house but just don’t have the people power and expertise to make that happen.

Unlike many other solutions that just address vanilla VDI, Desktop 365 is actually full XenApp/XenDesktop under the hood—thus, technologies such as HDX and printing policies are embedded within the product. For example, if disabling printing is necessary for contractors, the standard policies are available for this functionality. Desktop 365 presents a simple administrative UI, but more complex configurations are possible and are likely to be addressed by a consultant or managed service provider. This provides the flexibility to deploy the more complex features of XenApp and XenDesktop as needed and as appropriate. The fact that this is possible is a huge, unparalleled benefit.

Because Desktop 365 is based on Citrix technologies, the “any, any, any” model that Citrix offers accommodates end user requirements for the full spectrum of user devices. As such, users can access their business resources, whether presented as applications or desktops, from Citrix Receiver. Thus, as Citrix upgrades Receiver, users can readily take advantage of new and improved functionality.

What is most appealing is that Desktop 365 includes an easy-to-use administrative interface, making it reasonable for a moderately technical person to deploy and administer Citrix technologies without the traditional complexity. Desktop 365 from MaximumBit is a giant step forward in the simplification of VDI; it truly enables on-premises deployment for the SMB market.

Please note that this solution was announced at Citrix Synergy but has not yet been released.

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