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Citrix goes whole hog with virtual Windows

Made to order Vista

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Citrix Systems has tossed its code into the virtual desktop market.

The company this week pumped out Citrix Desktop Server 1.0. The software covers the whole spectrum for sending Windows out from the data center to a user's desktop, including virtual machines, blade PCs and terminal services. Like a number of vendors, Citrix claims that the long-hyped move away from traditional desktops is finally happening.

“We think there will be a lot of that migration away (from traditional PCs) occurring in the next three to four years,” said Mick Hollison, a VP at Citrix. “We think Vista will drive customers to rethink how they get their desktops to their customers.”

Citrix has a long and profitable history centered on sharing server-based applications among a number of users. Customers, for example, will fire up SAP from their PCs and feel like the software is sitting right on their machine when it's in fact being shared from a server. Now Citrix wants to barge into the virtual desktop game, sending out complete OS and application packages from the server room to a PC or thin terminal.

Citrix Desktop Server offers many of the same promises as similar software from the likes of Vmware and Wyse.

Administrators can manage PCs from a central spot in the server room rather than dealing with the space heaters on an individual basis. Ultimately, this should translate into lower overall management costs, more security and quicker upgrades for users.

Citrix sees the launch of Microsoft's Vista operating system as the best excuse to ship the new desktop software. Many older PCs will struggle to run Vista, making upgrades tough. Now, Citrix can send the Vista experience over the network to your old, clunky desktop.

The thin client/virtual desktop dream has been pushed by many a vendor for a very long time. (Something like four America's Cups in Larry Ellison time.) But the hype never matches reality, since the standard Windows desktop model has so much momentum.

“The biggest difference is that the end user experience is going to change this time around,” Hollison said.

The exec notes that software companies have thrown out the “one size fits all” approaches of yesteryear in favor of shipping honest to goodness unique desktops to users. Improved virtual machine technology, better bandwidth and faster processors makes the whole experience more bearable as well.

“All that plumbing has made the thin client more viable than it was five years ago,” Hollison said.

The first version of Citrix Desktop Server requires the use of both the company's own ICA protocol and Microsoft's RDP. A second version of the software which will “follow shortly on the heels” of the new release will only need ICA.

Citrix Desktop Server, while on preview now, will ship in the second quarter. There's more information here. ®

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