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Citrix Systems, Inc. has made a series of announcements that it says will make virtual desktops a mainstream reality for the first time for hundreds of millions of corporate employees. It has announced Citrix XenDesktop 4, the first product in the industry to support every major desktop virtualization model in a single, integrated solution. It has also announced enhancements to its HDX technology within XenDesktop. And it has announced a 2-for-1 trade-up offer aimed at getting Citrix XenApp customers to purchase the new XenDesktop 4.

"Citrix believes the virtual desktop revolution is here," said Tom Flink, Citrix’s channel chief. "Citrix XenDesktop 4 is the first-ever desktop virtualization solution."

The breakthrough aspect of the XenDesktop4 solution is its’ new FlexCast delivery technology’s ability to support every major desktop virtualization model in a single, integrated solution. This permits simplified management and extends the benefits of virtualization to every employee in the enterprise.

"Desktop virtualization must provide a better user experience, address all user types in a company and deliver on ROI," Flink said.

The new FlexCast delivery technology is the core to this experience. It gives customers the flexibility to deliver any type of virtual desktop, to any user, on any device — and to change this mix at any time. It supports up to 500 users on a single shared, server-based virtual desktop, providing a standardized, locked-down desktop ideally suited for jobs where user customization is not needed or desired.

For office workers who need more personalized desktops, the hosted VM-based model, VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) can run each user’s desktop in a dedicated virtual machine, combining the benefits of central management with full user personalization, and supporting about 60-70 desktops per server. In some cases, the simplest option is to deliver virtual applications to a PC running a traditionally installed OS. By centralizing apps and delivering them as an on-demand service to existing desktops, this option offers many of the ROI and management benefits of a fully virtualized desktop with minimal setup costs.

Flink said there are five top-line features in XenDesktop 4.

"The first is the any-device, any-time, anywhere concept. We have been doing this at Citrix for a long time, and we are now extending it to the desktop."

The second is open architecture. "It supports any hypervisor, storage platform, and end-user device. We think we are uniquely able to provide that in the marketplace."

The third is the improved HDX user experience, which ensures the best possible user experience for multimedia content, real-time communication, USB peripherals and 3D graphics, regardless of the network or endpoint device. The fourth is Flex Cast, which is core to optimizing delivery for every user

The fifth is the integration of on-demand apps by XenApp into XenDesktop 4, which makes application delivery a seamless part of the overall desktop management experience. Now, IT can control data access, manage fewer desktop images, eliminate system conflicts, and reduce application regression testing.

"Application virtualization is a core aspect of desktop virtualization, and XenApp is the proven platform for that," Flink said.

By delivering desktops as an on-demand service to any device, XenDesktop 4 greatly simplifies administration. On-boarding new employees goes from days to minutes. And employee moves, adds and changes become quick and easy. Combining secure central management with full device independence also allows companies to implement cost-saving "BYOC" (bring-your-own-computer) programs that give employees the freedom to purchase any laptop of their choice in lieu of standard-issue PCs owned and managed by IT.

XenDesktop 4 will be generally available beginning on November 16, 2009 and will be licensed on a per user basis. It will be available in three editions with the following suggested list prices: Standard — $75 per user; Enterprise — $225 per user; Platinum — $350 per user. Standard comes with only VDI, while both Enterprise and Platinum have XenApp application virtualization. Platinum also gives access to some other technologies.

Citrix is also offering its XenApp customers who are ready to step up from standalone app delivery to full desktop virtualization. They can trade their existing XenApp licenses for new XenDesktop 4 licenses on a 2-for-1 basis, with one XenApp license trading for twice the number of XenDesktop 4 user licenses — a savings of up to 80 percent off list price. All trade-up offers are available through June 30, 2010.

Flink said that while they expect the whole solution will be of great benefit to the Citrix channel, the trade-up offer will be especially important.

"We think a lot of our customers will take advantage of this, and it will be great for our channel over the next nine months."

"XenDesktop 4 also streamlines and simplifies the sales process for our channel," he said. "This makes the conversation simpler by giving them a single, flexible solution that meets the need of all their customer types."

Partners see this as very significant for being able to go into their customer base and move virtualization to the next level," he added. "It arms partners to go out into that install base and drive deeper into the account."