Citrix Announces Bare-Metal Desktop Hypervisor and Intel Partnership

Posted by Tom Rose on Jan 23, 2009

Yesterday Citrix announced what has been rumored for some time - it is developing a Type 1 client hypervisor based on Xen that will ship later this year. The new wrinkle is that it is doing so in partnership with Intel, who has agreed to make changes to its vPro virtualization chip technology to accomodate the new bare-metal desktop hypervisor. In a companion announcement, Citrix also introduced Project Independence, an initiative that will package the new hypervisor with XenDesktop, XenApp, and other Citrix solutions in an effort to transform the way corporate desktops are delivered and managed.

Type 1 hypervisors becoming part of standard PC builds is something Unidesk has been anticipating would happen since our inception. The bare-metal efforts of Citrix, VMware (which announced its own Type 1 hypervisor as part of its vClient initiative several months ago at VMworld), and several startups are now solving the main problems that have plagued desktop virtualization to date - poor 3D graphics and multimedia performance, limited device driver support, too-large memory requirements, and the inability to work off-line.

Citrix's partnership with Intel takes this one step further by making the hypervisor available to PC manufacturers so that it becomes embedded in desktop firmware. It's a shrewd move by Citrix, since Intel's influence is likely to bring Dell, HP, Lenovo, and other PC manufacturers into the fold, and accelerate mainstream adoption.

Things start to get more interesting when Citrix discusses its vision for the desktop of the future. As part of yesterday's announcements, Citrix unveiled its "Five Predictions for the Next Era of Desktop Computing." We're definitely on board with Prediction #2 – Your Company Will Spend More on Coffee and Office Supplies Than it Does on Desktop Management. Unidesk technology will make this prediction a reality starting this year.

Where we differ from Citrix is in how this particular prediction will play out. Citrix proposes using its Type 1 hypervisor to isolate the user's corporate desktop - which is locked down and under the control of IT - from the user's personal desktop - which is open to personalization and under the control of the user. We don't believe this will solve the personalization, image management, application delivery, and desktop support problems plauging most enterprises, and may, in fact, exacerbate them:

  • End users now have to contend with two desktops, one for work, and one for personal use. According to Citrix, users will have to "hot-key” between the two. We're not sure the average office worker wants to deal with this increased level of sophistication and inconvenience. It's not much different than having to bring their home computer into work every day to sit alongside their corporate desktop so they can switch back and forth.
  • The corporate desktop is still locked-down, with no personalization. So if I’m a knowledge worker who needs to install the latest version of Adobe Acrobat to read a file sent by a colleague, a wealth management advisor who needs to install hedge fund analysis software to help a client, or a salesperson who needs to install an Excel plug-in to generate a customer quote, I can’t. Unless I install these things on my personal desktop – but now I don’t have access to any of my work files/data. Again, no different than if I had two physical desktops – the company’s and my own.
  • Citrix’s claim of single image management and “radically reduced desktop management costs” assumes that the corporate desktop is locked down and that all personalization is restricted to the user’s personal desktop. As shown in the previous examples, this simply doesn’t work for enterprises with knowledge workers who require desktop customization.
  • Desktop support and break/fix calls will actually increase. What if the employee’s personal desktop breaks? They’ll still call the corporate helpdesk, because most won’t be able to distinguish their personal desktop from the company’s (since it’s now the same hardware).
  • Productivity will actually decrease. If employees are still responsible for their own personal desktop, they’re more likely to spend work time trying to figure out what’s wrong when it breaks. At least in the past, when they had a corporate desktop and a home PC, the home PC stayed home. Now that they are one in the same, the home PC is going to be with them at work, making it easier to spend work time using it.

Unidesk has invented a better way. A way that builds upon the Type 1 hypervisor and VDI initiatives announced to date, and is aligned with what industry analyst The 451 writes in its coverage on the Citrix news: "Although hosted, server-based desktop virtualization (like VDI) still has many detractors, it won't go away. A combination of the functionality of both the server and desktop approaches is the most likely scenario for the future."

The Unidesk way will give enterprises the flexibility to choose the desktop approach and the hypervisor technology that best satisfy their many use cases. All while providing the ultimate balance between end users' needs for personalization and productivity, IT's needs for security, compliance, and control, and the CFO's needs for desktops that are cheaper to manage than re-stocking coffee and office supplies.

-Tom Rose
Chief Marketing Officer, Unidesk

Posted by Tom Rose on Jan 23, 2009

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