One of the more surprising things in a relatively unsurprising Citrix Synergy was the round of applause created by the announcement of the Linux VDA Tech Preview. I think it’s great, but it’s not the kind of announcement you’d think would garner much more than a murmur, let alone get a larger reaction from the audience than the iBand’s rendition of “Hey Ya!"
I count myself among the camp that wants Citrix and VMware to put effort into a Linux VDA, while others can make a case for Citrix and VMware to redirect those development efforts back on to the core Windows platform. In the past I’ve called the Linux VDA a “niche of a niche” because desktop virtualization is already a niche, and Linux is just a small portion of desktop virtualization. In spite of that, I like the idea because it eliminates the need to have two remote desktop platforms (up until now it’s been Citrix/VMware and something else like NoMachine or something SPICE-oriented), but it’s not exactly something the industry at large has been clamoring for.
(Yes, you can use a NoMachine or SPICE-based platform to remote Windows too, but I have yet to find one that outperforms Citrix/VMware. Let’s just admit you’re not likely to throw away one of those platforms in favor of NoMachine or SPICE for Windows alone.)
Citrix beat VMware to the market with their Linux VDA, but you could argue that they had a head start. For many years, Citrix has sold MetaFrame for Unix, (which I believe is still technically available) and it served as a rudimentary base for the Linux VDA. Most of the code had to be rewritten from scratch, though, since MFU is around 15 years old. Much of the VDA is written in .NET, which had to be rewritten to run in Linux. The end result is a Linux virtual desktop that can be accessed from old and new clients.
The first version of the Linux VDA is designed to remote hosted shared Linux full desktops (so, RDSH for Linux). They currently support both Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.6 Server and Workstation as well as SuSe 11.3 (64-bit only). Since it’s so new, Citrix has only included the basic virtual channels that you’d expect (keyboard, mouse, clipboard, graphics), but will be adding more features like audio and seamless applications as time goes by. The current version is expected to be released in Q2, with additional features like multi-monitor and policy support coming in subsequent releases.
Citrix focused on enterprise Linux builds, which was smart, but I think that it might be a good idea to expand to a more accessible Linux flavor like Ubuntu. RHEL and SUSE are great for users that currently use Linux, and their companies are going to be the first to use this so it makes sense that they went that route. Still, if there are companies out there that are thinking about getting away from Windows altogether, something like Ubuntu that’s a little more user friendly to a first timer might be a more attractive option.
Brian was able to record a video demo of the Linux VDA at Synergy, which you can view above. You can download a Tech Preview of Linux VDA today, and they expect it to be released by the end of the month. I’d love to hear your feedback on what you think about the product in general, and what features should be added next, so let us know in the comments.