Citrix VDI-in-a-Box Upgrade Allows More Personalization
Citrix released on Tuesday its newest version of VDI-in-a-Box -- that's VDI, as in Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Version 5.1 offers several new enhancements, including personalized virtual desktops, single-instance management and Google Earth support.
Virtual desktop technology enables a user desktop to run inside a virtual machine on a server. It offers an individual desktop for each user, while providing the IT department or tech specialist with centralized management.
Citrix says its VDI-in-a-Box product is intended to make virtual desktop technology affordable and easy for small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs) that do not have major IT support. The company also offers a complementary and more extensive enterprise solution called XenDesktop for desktop virtualization at larger organizations.
The SMB-focused VDI-in-a-Box, in its current incarnation, was released in November of last year, following the virtualization technology the company acquired when it bought Kaviza in May. The new 5.1 version uses technology from XenDesktop, and Citrix has been working to get both products better aligned.
Kumar Goswami, Citrix vice president of products for VDI-in-a-Box, said in a statement that VDI-in-a-Box allows customers to "increase the level of personalization offered to end-users without increasing complexity or costs," even while growing deployments.
In Version 5.1, there is no longer the need to create separate static desktops in order to allow end-user customization, as single-instance management can now allow individual user workspaces to have their own apps and data. The company said that this new ability for single-instance management, along with individual personalization, reduces maintenance efforts and cuts data center storage costs by as much as 90 percent.
Other enhancements include Active Directory failover, dual data stores for faster tiers of storage -- such as solid state storage -- and another layer of built-in load balancing via a grid-wide virtual IP, to better handle the failure of a single server.
Google Earth, Alerts
In addition, 5.1 users can now use Google Earth seamlessly, and Citrix said various new features make deployment, upgrades and management easier. A new "touchless desktop agent" automatically upgrades all the images in the VDI-in-a-Box grid without requiring admin help. There's now also support for multiple virtual CPUs and the ability to partition user and computer domains for increased compliance and flexibility.
With the formal release of Windows 8 just around the corner, the new version supports Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 8 beta, as well as XP and 7, pending general availability of the new OS.
We asked Krishna Subramanian, vice president of Marketing and Partner Engagement for VDI-in-a-Box, what the company saw as the most significant enhancements in the new release.
She pointed to the increased use of technology from XenDesktop.
"A company might be using VDI-in-a-Box in a department, while using XenDesktop overall at the organization," she said, adding that the new version better enables this kind of integration.
'Affordable But Robust'
Subramanian also said the Active Directory failover is helping to meet customers' desire for an "affordable but robust solution," in that an Active Directory in a branch office could fail over -- meaning switch over -- to the central site for backup when needed.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said that in the new version, Citrix has basically "completely redone the management interface to make it more intuitive."
She noted that VDI in general had "hit a speed bump," as other companies were getting in the game of "desktop as a service," hoping to make it easier and less expensive to manage than, say, XenDesktop.
VDI-in-a-Box, DiDio said, was Citrix' way of "getting around the speed bump," and the new version continues the move toward simplification while increasing the alignment with XenDesktop.