Citrix releases XenDesktop 3, adds multimedia redirection and OS streaming to physical workstations

Citrix just announced the release and immediate availability of Version 3 of their VDI and desktop delivery product called XenDesktop. (UPDATE FEB 5 - Availability is in a few weeks.)

Citrix just announced the release and immediate availability of Version 3 of their VDI and desktop delivery product called XenDesktop. (UPDATE FEB 5 - Availability is in a few weeks.) XenDesktop 3 has several new features, including:

  • Support for SpeedScreen multimedia redirection via ICA. (This is what geeks know as "RAVE," which has been available in MetaFrame / XenApp for more than five years.)
  • Tweaks to how XenServer and XenDesktop interact, increasing the number of VMs you can run on a single physical server.
  • OS streaming support (Citrix Provisioning Server) to physical desktops (in addition to virtual desktops in the datacenter).
  • User Profile Manager v2
  • Smart card support.
  • Support for the same kinds of USB devices as XenApp.
  • New branding element called HD-X (High-def Xen). (more on this in a future article)

Desktop OS Streaming to local workstations. (Wait.. that's new?)

In the past, I wrote that I thought Citrix XenDesktop was not that useful because it only worked for VDI scenarios. Citrix's Rob Hammersmith corrected me, telling me that the license of Citrix Provisioning Server that came with Ardence could also be used for offline desktops. I was confused about how I missed that point, and in fact I wrote a whole article that was somewhat of a retraction saying, "Whoops. I didn't know it did that. So yeah, it looks like XenDesktop is useful after all!"

But today's press release for Citrix XenDesktop 3 lists Provisioning Server support for local desktops as a new feature. So maybe I was right all along and Rob was wrong? (It's funny how I get a dozen emails from Citrix when I'm wrong in a way that's negative towards them. But when I'm wrong in a way that makes them look better than they actually are, I hear nothing!)

Regardless of whether I was actually wrong or not, the bottom line is that NOW FOR SURE Citrix XenDesktop offers the capability to stream OSes to local workstations.

Who has the best VDI product on the market now?

Certainly the short list (in alphabetical order) is Citrix XenDesktop 3, Quest vWorkspace 6, and VMware View 3. There are still no products that are ready to be used for general purpose across-the-board desktop replacement. (It's ok. We still have 16 months to wait.)

Since VMware View 3 does not have the Teradici software-based protocol yet, and since it does not have the bare-metal hypervisor, and since it only offers offline VM sync as an unsupported "local" feature, I'm going to officially swing back and go on record saying that I believe Citrix XenDesktop 3 is a better product than VMware View 3. (Yes I know that XenDesktop 3 doesn't have offline or bare metal hypervisor capabilities either, but those two things were the main reason I liked View 3 so much in the first place. Both Citrix and VMware are working on this stuff, so we'll see who gets there first with the most-usable product.)

I should also point out that I'm making broad generalizations when I say that I like XenDesktop 3 better than View 3. The reality is that because VDI is still a niche solution, both products are probably "good enough" for today's VDI deployments, and I don't have super strong feelings one way or the other. So if you're a VMware customer and your rep gives you good pricing on View, then go for it!

Finally, those of you paying attention noticed I just talked about which product I liked better between XenDesktop 3 and View 3. But remember my short list also includes Quest vWorkspace 6, and let me tell you, that product rocks! If you haven't checked out the Quest stuff in awhile, you're in for a real surprise. (Gabe's working on a full review that we'll post in a few weeks. In the meantime, here's a video that walks through the v6 management console) (Give the video time to load - it's about 90MB). Quest is still the only one of these three that offers full integrated functionality across single user (VDI) and multi-user (TS) hosts. And their EOP protocol is every bit as good as ICA from a user experience standpoint. (Although EOP does consume a bit more bandwidth as it is today.)

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Hi Brian, PVS could always stream an OS to a local physical workstation. There are case studies I believe (schools in the US) that already do this to the desktop.


What the press release says though which I think has been omitted from your post is that you can stream the same image to both physical and virtual.  I have not seen this before.  It has been you have one VDisk for physical and one VDisk for virtual.  This looks like it resolves the HCL issues of the past that one would have experienced if they were to attempt this.  I would like to know how they do this on the fly though.


Cheers


Jase


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My guess is that the image will need to have both the Virtual Device drivers, and the physical device drivers, as long as the solution is not combined with a client-side hypervisor solution.


Rene Vester


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Hi Rene,


I remember talk a while ago where there were restrictions around what VDisk you could stream to which device based on some sort of NIC drivers and versioning.  This restriction may have been removed and they have announced it.  I know my description is vague, more than happy for somebody to correct me on this :)


Jase


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Correct me if I am wrong, put I am interpreting the quote from Citrix's press release different then the rest.


"Adding support for local streamed desktops lets XenDesktop administrators stream desktops from the same golden master images, and execute them locally on any network-connected endpoint capable of running a desktop operating system. This powerful combination adds significant flexibility and cost savings, allowing IT to centrally manage desktops for office workers and run them wherever it makes the most sense, leveraging the distributed processing power of both servers and endpoint devices."


To me it sounds much like the Application Streaming functionality in Presentation Server 4.5 where you can stream the apps to the local desktop for off-line use. This would make sense because it coincides with Citrix's vision for off-line use of a streamed instance to automatically sync up with the datacenter which is more "elegant" than a check-in/out method.


In my experience with Provisioning Server you could always have a single vDisk for physical and virtual, it's just very messy with physical because of all of the device drivers you would have to install in the "golden" image.


Just my 2 cents,


Kyle


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Hi Kyle,


PVS does not have an offline component yet.  Looks like it was no more than marketing and making people aware that PVS can be used for Virtual and Physical desktops.


Looks like Citrix's Marketing Dept. are just making people aware that this is possible.


Jase


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The XenServer Platinum Getting Started Guide V1.0 on page 26 discribes how to provision both physical and virtual machines from the same workload image. This only works with XenServer as far as I know.


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Thank you for the correction.


It is not only apparent that I jumped ahead of myself wrt the press release, but that I do not know how to add comments because I re-wrote it due to me thinking it did not go through.


I must have been pre-occupied on trying to get those vehicles from VMware. I heard they are giving away Hummers on the side.


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From what I understand licensing for xen desktop was alway a gray area when it came to local machines.


You could use pvs, but legally that required a seperate Provisioning license for Desktops, just like there is a provisioning license for Datacenters.


The new license for XD 3 will allow for dual purpose local and vm provisioning with a singular license.


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Brian,


You mention that the shortlist is Citrix XenDesktop 3, Quest vWorkspace 6, and VMware View 3.  What about Sun VDI with their Sun Ray thin client and Sun Secure Global Desktop (formerly Tarantella)?


Thanks,


Scott


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Re: Sun Global Desktop.. I don't want to start a war here, but no, that product is not on my "short list." I'm not saying that it's not useful in certain scenarios, but it wouldn't make the list of products that I evaluated unless I had a specific reason for it.


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@Kyle -


Ohhhh it was THOSE hummers Brian was talking about.  No wonder they were looking at me sideways when I asked for one.


@Brian - You should have told me.  How embarassing for me...


;)


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"Immediate availability" must not mean today...it's not on the Citrix download site.  Gotta love marketing!


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@Rene


The whole device driver issue is going to be key to client virtualization because in any real organization there will be a huge variety of different client hardware. Machines will be bought over time and you cannot always source identical machines. Therefore we will have to have different drivers for different machines.


This is going to make delivering a single, common, image really hard in the short term. Longer term there are good things going on with client hypervisors that will help.


Martin Ingram


AppSense


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Hey, guys - just want to clarify - the press release actually says "February 2009" not "immediate availability" - that was just Brian's wishful thinking at the time he posted I guess ;-)


We'll see it before month end, so please be patient!


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Brian said - "There are still no products that are ready to be used for general purpose across-the-board desktop replacement. (It's ok. We still have 16 months to wait.)"


In your opinion, what would a VDI product need to have or do for it to be a "general purpose across-the-board desktop replacement"?


Thanks,


SlimShady


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Well, it's up for download as of now..


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Yup, it just went live today on the web, General Availability should be in the next couple weeks.


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At the day 1 keynote session of Citrix Summit in October 2008, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton announced that "starting now" XenDesktop can be used to stream locally. He likened it to XenApp, where one can take one profile of an app and stream it to a host (a terminal server running XA) or stream it to a local OS. He said one can make one vDisk and stream it to a host (a VDI infrastructure) or stream it to a local PC.


So prior to that announcement on Oct 27th, there was a lot of confussion of whether or not you could stream local using XD. The technology could always do it. It was a question of whether the XD license allowed you to do it. After Mark's announcement the debate was over. The XD license allowed you to do it, and he used the words "starting now". He never insinuated that customers would have to wait for the 3.0 release to do this. In fact he never even mentioned 3.0. Since Oct 27th, XD customers who bought advanced edition and above have been fully licensed to do it.  


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