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Hewlett-Packard will bundle Citrix XenDesktop 3 with two new blade PC offerings to help solution providers reduce customers’ costs, increase manageability and security and gain traction in a rapidly accelerating market.

Desktop virtualization solutions have seen early adoption in vertical markets such as health care, finance and manufacturing whose users regularly interact with confidential and business-critical data, and that require high security and regulatory compliance.

As the technology matures, however, HP sees a growing mainstream need for desktop virtualization technology across all industries, says Dan Nordhues, director of marketing for HP Blade solutions.

“We see our total addressable market as the entire desktop market–which is huge,” says Nordhues. “There are certain verticals that have more pressing security and compliance needs which have deployed desktop virtualization first,” he says.

The technology uses a centralized architecture that places blade PCs in an organization’s data center. Thin-client PC terminals are used by employees to log into applications, documents and to access data.

The blade PCs are fully functional PCs with dedicated CPUs and optional remote graphic software, up to 8GB of memory and up to an 80GB hard drive.

“These are fully functional PCs with the same processors, disks, memory and I/O, but it’s in a blade form factor to fit into the data center,” says Nordhues. “Using Citrix XenDesktop 3, users sit at an endpoint, login and the Citrix broker software will figure out which blade is available to connect to.”

Desktop virtualization delivers a variety of benefits, including cost savings, increased security, enhanced mobility and collaboration and energy savings, says Nordhues.

"Particularly in this challenging economic environment, we see client virtualization as a cost-efficient alternative for companies needing to economically update and better manage their personal computing infrastructures," he says.

Desktop virtualization can help solution providers tackle customers’ issues around compliance and security, Nordhues says, including data loss and theft, since all data, applications and programs are stored in a centralized data center and not on employees’ devices.

“XenDesktop 3 only delivers the visual experience of your desktop,” says Nordhues. “There’s no data, no files; users can’t load their own software or take anything away,” he says, which ensures data security. When users shut down their terminals, the blade PC can continue running until users log back in.

Availability is another huge benefit of the technology, since the centralized architecture allows employees and users access from anywhere, even from home using a secure VPN, Nordhues says. Besides the cost savings involved in allowing employees to work from home, desktop virtualization allows organizations to pool PC processing and memory power for greater efficiency.

“Pooling PCs means you can have fewer blade PCs in the data center than there are employees. In a traditional desktop environment, you really have to have one PC per user,” Nordhues says, which can be expensive to procure and maintain.

“From a failure perspective, if your desktop fails, you’re down for a couple hours or longer, and you’ve lost the productivity of the equipment and the employee,” Nordhues says. But with a blade PC, users simply move to another blade in the pool, pull up their applications and continue working, he says.

Desktop virtualization also makes collaboration much easier, since users aren’t tied to a specific desk or workspace on which their PC resides, says Nordhues.

The blade PCs are more environmentally friendly, with the BC2200 using only 7.4 kilowatts of power, and use 90 percent efficient redundant power supplies, he says.

HP’s new BladeSystem bc2200 Blade PC will replace the current BC2000, and the BC2800 will replace the current BC2500, says Nordhues, and both provide increased performance and greater memory capacity than their predecessors. Both blade PCs come preinstalled with Microsoft Windows Vista Business edition and can support a range of operating systems, including Windows Vista Enterprise 32-bit, Vista Business 64-bit, Windows XP Professional SP 3 and Linux.

The bundles will be available in early March through HP solution providers and joint HP-Citrix resellers, he says. No end-of-life date was announced for the previous generation products.

While initial acquisition costs for blade PC architectures are higher, Nordhues says HP expects the market to heat up as the long-term savings become more obvious for customers. He says many current blade PC customers are seeing ROI in about 14 or 15 months.

The greater challenge, he says, is sparking a shift in organizations’ mindset and shaking up their traditional procurement cycle.

“While the cost of the PC part is pretty much the same, the data center enclosure is more expensive, and there’s also the issue of creating space in your data center and getting your IT staff into a new mindset,” says Nordhues.

For years, IT organizations have simply ordered PCs from their vendor of choice when hardware fails or lifecycles end, he says, but that trend is shifting.

“With more people working from home and more companies requiring increased agility and doing business globally, this technology will help IT become much more strategic,” Nordhues says. “This is an area that’s poised for accelerating growth,” he says.