Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Desktop as a service era ramps up as Citrix marks May delivery of XenDesktop at a tough price to beat

Heralding a new era for desktop as a service (DaaS), the long-awaited XenDesktop line from Citrix Systems will become available during the Citrix Synergy 2008 conference in mid-May.

The XenDesktop product line is the latest entry in the effervescent virtualization market and will be co-marketed with Microsoft. With the XenDesktop, companies can virtualize entire Windows desktop instances from their data centers and deliver them on-demand as a service to any workers with a web browser and broadband.

General good guy and fellow ZDNet blogger Dan Kusnetzky has a post on XenDesktop too.

With current PC software management, updating and upkeep costing some $5,000 per user seat annually (and that's low for many companies), according to some industry experts, Citrix is predicting a saving of up to 40 percent in PC desktop TCO using the virtualized server delivery and on demand UI approach.

Because the Citrix DaaS system dynamically assembles each user's personal desktop image from fresh software components each time the user logs in, updates and upgrades are seamless -- for the operating system and applications. Management centrally saves from help desk calls and visits to the physical location of the PCs. Combined with remote access, PCs may never feel the warm touch of an IT admin or help desk steward once its out of its shipping crate, if then.

The system separates applications from the desktop OS and provisions them independently at runtime from new master images. Each time they log in, users get a fresh desktop that is more secure, personalized, and free from corruption and conflicts. A high-speed delivery protocol provides instant access to desktops and applications over any network, no matter how far users are from the data center. That means near-instant boot-ups.

From an administration viewpoint, managing desktops and applications separately, and combining them only at runtime, allows IT to maintain a single master Windows desktop OS image for all users, rather than fully loaded desktop virtual machines for each employee. This also simplifies lifecycle management. And Microsoft still get its CAL, but saves the enterprise on the PC TCO at the same time.

Why didn't they think of this sooner? Guess MSFT had other things on its mind other than helping out its customers with the high cost of computing. I guess we're glad Citrix and others forced their hand.

And so how about that $500 PC thin client market, eh? I'm Wyse to that. HP likes it too.

What's more, Microsoft is also perhaps embracing DaaS now so to diminish the market opportunity for non-Windows thin clients, ans the DaaS delivery of Linux and Unix (Open BSD) offerings. How much cheaper would non-Windows PC TCO be when the delivery via DaaS? Probably not enough to energize that market. There's always the SaaS and cloud markets, however, to keep MSFT busy on the commoditization front.

I tagged Citrix and its desktop virtualization as a powerful market disrupter about six months ago and it seems to be living up to its promise. As I said then:

When you combine virtualization benefits up and down the applications lifecycle -- with such functionality as back-end automated server instance provisioning -- you get excellent cost controls. You get excellent management, security and code controls. And you marry two of the hottest trends going -- powerfully low TCO for serving applications at scale with radically simpler and managed delivery via optimized WANs (NetScaler Web application accelerator) of those applications to the edge device.

The desktop as a service market has been bubbling vigorously lately. Just over a week ago, MokaFive announced its desktop virtualization product, which combines cloud computing with local execution.

And I expect news any day now from Desktone, which is aiming many of the same values that Citrix is delivering with XenDesktop -- but to service providers so that an ecology for DaaS can develop to homes and small businesses (and maybe enterprises too). The Desktone approach gives the tools to deliver DaaS to, say, your telephone company so they can offer a PC as a service at a flat fee per month. More on that later. Incidentally, Citrix is an investor in Desktone, so they see eye to eye on a lot of this.

The XenDesktop comes in three editions: Platinum, which offers the most flexible user access, performance monitoring and quality of service (QoS) capabilities, and remote virtual desktop support; Enterprise, an integrated system for cost-effective scalability; and Standard, the entry-level product.

Pricing will begin at $75 per concurrent user. Details about requirements can be found at the XenDesktop Web site. Until May 20, XenDesktop is available as a public beta and can be downloaded from the Citrix site.

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