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Project Avalon: Will Citrix Put VMware Horizon to the Sword?

Project Avalon was announced by Citrix back in May. Project AvalonAvalon is to deliver Windows apps and desktops as a true cloud service. Since then, there has been speculation on what that actually entails. “Cloud” or “Cloud Service” can have many different connotations; indeed, for many the very term “cloud” fills their ears with a high-pitched nee and causes a yearn to live in an anarcho-syndicalist commune.

Running small-scale, departmental-level deployments of desktop virtualization is relatively straightforward. Scale past thousands to several thousands of desktops and applications, and the process of management and delivery gets much harder. More importantly, data centre technology has changed. How do you scale an environment while segregating the roles of a virtual desktop administrator from those of the storage, networking, or virtual infrastructure teams? How can the data centre infrastructure team provide the right service to the desktop team, and vice versa, so that they can optimize delivery of virtual desktops?

Citrix has FlexCast, the concept that IT should be able to deliver a variety of types of virtual instances, with each tailored to meet performance, security, and flexibility requirements. But while FlexCast gives choices for users, the simplicity of the user interface belies the rapid duck-paddling of disparate, separately developed and maintained products that organisations have to maintain at the back-end, many of which creak at the mere thought of a little bit of scaled peril.

To avoid smelling of elderberries, Citrix needs to make the administration and deployment of their Windows application and desktop delivery more straightforward and relevant to current delivery methods. Easier large/massive deployments are necessary in order to maintain large enterprise account revenue and to entice service providers to build solutions on Citrix software. Project Avalon is intended to allow organisations to effectively centralize IT to provide cost savings through scale and administration and maintain security, while enabling decentralized IT resources to utilize those central services to give users and customers a productive experience.

At the same time, the VMware Horizon Suite is intended to provide the end user with a single place to get access to their applications, data, and desktops and to give IT a single management console to manage entitlements, policies, and security.

At Synergy 2012 in Barcelona, components of Project Avalon were revealed. Project Excalibur will focus on creating an integrated FlexCast platform, and Project Merlin will deliver self-service provision, management, and service orchestration.

What will these components provide, and where will it lead customers? Will embarking on a quest to get to Avalon lead to the promised grail or just to some watery tart?

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