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Citrix rounds out its desktop plans

Citrix extends its desktop strategy with the release of its desktop virtualization product XenDesktop.

HOUSTON -- With the release of XenDesktop this week and a handful of tools to help piece together an integrated plan for enterprises, Citrix Systems Inc. has become a force in a market closely watched by IT managers.

In addition to its XenDesktop product line, Citrix also released an orchestration tool, Citrix Workflow Studio, plus a handful of network optimizers.

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XenDesktop, which was introduced last October, gives Citrix another option to sell to IT managers who are increasingly looking for different ways to give their diverse community of end users appropriate computing resources.

IT shops are looking to save money by virtualizing their desktops, and many of them are looking to widen the population of end users on XenApps, the Citrix application virtualization platform built on Microsoft's Terminal Services. XenDesktop targets end users that require more customization.

Citrix released five versions of XenDesktop ranging from a 10-user freebie to a Platinum edition designed for users that are installing applications from the data center that sells for $399 per concurrent user. The Platinum version includes among other things enterprise class security and monitoring features, plus integrated helpdesk support.

Some enterprise customers were stung by the $399 price tag on the Platinum edition, particularly since it doesn't include hardware or other software. Beyond XenDesktop, one needs to buy the hardware and licenses for the Windows desktop and server operating systems.

Other users say it's more than the price of the software. It's the method of application delivery that makes no sense. "The disconnect for me is [that] the rest of the world is going Web native," said Bill Overby, CIO at Lakeview Health, a hospital in Stillwater, Minn. "So if the applications are going to the Web, why do I need Citrix for $400?"

Raj Dhingra, group vice president and general manager at Citrix, countered that the cost of managing a desktop can run $4,000 to $9,000 per year. He added that most companies have hundreds of applications and although some are indeed becoming Web-based, many will continue to run on Windows Server. "So for the foreseeable future, you may need to deliver a desktop and a Windows desktop," Dhingra said.

Also released this week was Citrix Workflow Studio, which presents commands from products as graphical objects so they can be linked on a workflow canvas, Citrix said. In doing so, IT administrators can automate business processes that were previously disconnected.

Microsoft's shadow

As usual, Microsoft was a big presence at the conference -- a sign to IT shops that the two will continue to move in lockstep. At a separate briefing with Citrix CEO Mark Templeton and Bob Muglia, Microsoft's senior vice president, both executives discussed their company's close relationship. For example, Templeton said Citrix discussed it's acquisition of XenSource with Microsoft, prior to making the bid, explaining its need for a "full stack."

Microsoft essentially blessed the deal given the fact that its own infrastructure was late to the game and Citrix didn't want to see VMware Inc. run away with the server virtualization market.

At the conference this week the companies jointly released the Citrix Branch Repeater, a technology that speeds up branch office computing by amplifying and retransmitting applications to the remote site. Prices start at $5,500.

One stop shop?

Though Citrix has made much of the fact that it sells a complete virtualization package from servers to desktops and applications, it's not clear that IT shops will want to buy everything from one vendor even if it's possible. In some companies, the desktop and server teams are also different staff members and for political reasons, they may choose different vendors for their virtualization needs -- maybe VMware or Microsoft for the server and Citrix for the desktop.

Chris Wolf, an analyst at Burton Group Inc., Midvale, Utah, said having one vendor (for virtualization) is largely a myth since the typical enterprise is a hodge podge of technology anyway.

"Microsoft won't be the end provider and neither will Citrix," Wolf said. "The real key is integration, which is what Microsoft and Citrix bring to the table very well."

Wolf said that IT should start thinking about how they will create their virtual infrastructure. "It's time to look at the solutions and evaluate," he said. "Where you have to be careful is not getting caught up in specific technical elements and to look at the solution as a whole. What is most efficient -- in terms of performance, storage and network utilization, as well as application and maintenance?"

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