Citrix personalizes, extends virtual desktops

Citrix XenDesktop 5.5 features desktop personalization and wide area network access

Working to boost the versatility and speed of virtual desktops, Citrix Systems has updated its XenDesktop software to allow users to personalize their desktops, as well as offer the ability to access their desktops over wide area networks (WANs), the company announced Wednesday.

"There are a lot of nuances you have to work through when you give someone a personal desktop, and with this release, we are delivering that at no extra charge," said John Fanelli, Citrix's vice president for enterprise desktops and applications.

XenDesktop is Citrix's server software for delivering virtual desktops over a network to individual users. The new release, Citrix XenDesktop 5.5, has over 150 new features and improvements. "This is the largest release of XenDesktop in Citrix's history," Fanelli boasted.

This version is the first to incorporate the desktop personalization technology from Citrix's acquisition of RingCube earlier this month. This software allows users to customize their own personalized desktops, as well as allows organizations to embed departmental applications on these desktops. Earlier versions of this software could only serve up generic desktops, and any customizations made to them would not be saved after they were shut down.

The personalization technology, now branded "Personal vDisk" will be available as a separate download, and can be configured from within a menu option on the XenDesktop console, Fanelli said.

This is also the first version of XenDesktop that Citrix is advocating for use over WANs. Previous versions were more suited to deliver desktops over LANs (local area networks), but desktop performance proved too sluggish to try to run across longer distances. Citrix has improved its streaming protocol, HDX (High Definition User Experience), so that long-range streaming is now possible, Fanelli said. It can prioritize network traffic based on users, or the type of traffic that is being carried.

The performance improvement will now allow organizations to issue virtual desktops to workers at branch offices or those working at home, Fanelli said.

Performance has also been accelerated in a number of other ways as well. For instance, virtual desktops can now stream Flash content locally, rather than having it redirected through the desktop server. It now can support streaming voice and video traffic. It also supports Windows 7 Aero interface. Users can also print to local printers using software on the client, which will speed printing speeds sixfold.

Along with this XenDesktop release, Citrix has also updated the server client, Citrix Receiver. The client program now has customized interfaces for each operating system. The desktop on an Android-based tablet will have a different look and feel from a Microsoft Windows desktop, for instance.

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Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
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