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  If you are considering VDI or any kind of Desktop Virtualization solution, chances are you have heard about HDX, ICA, RDP, PCoIP, VNC, etc etc.  Perhaps however you have not had a chance to use HDX first hand or at your location. Or you may be a solution provider, reseller, consultant or knowledgeable IT Pro that knows the benefits of HDX and ICA over the alternatives but have not been able to demonstrate it easily to others.
It is now possible to install and use HDX with only two LAN connected PC’s or Virtual Machines. PC to PC, PC to VM or VM to VM. If you have a test rig with a few VMs ( ESX, XenServer, Hyper-V, whatever ) just install the Host MSI in the VM and the Client Receiver MSI on any PC and you can be up and running in less than ten minutes.  It is intended for LAN evaluation but can also work over a WAN with a VPN connection. So if you have hesitated evaluating a full XenDesktop Proof of Concept and just want to kick to tires on HDX, this is your answer. An easy step up from HDX Connect is the XenDesktop Express for up to ten users. ( See everything you need for free VDI

The best way to get HDX Connect now is from your local Citrix Solution Advisor, Citrix Rep or SE ( or maybe a friendly CTP ). If you haven’t reached out in a while, this could be a good time to talk. If you are an authorized Citrix Advisor, you can find the HDX Connect Demo in the demo section of the sales kits on MyCitrix.  

Right now only Windows 7 Pro and XP Pro are supported. No Windows Home or Server editions, Mac, or tablets, however let us know if you think it makes sense for these alternatives. There is a 4 hour session limit and then a 5 minute cool off, plus ULA restrictions so keep that in mind. HDX Connect Demo is not intended for production use, however I expect many ingenious IT Pros may find interesting use cases and ask for something more so let us know what you think.     



Did I just read that!

On February 9th, there was an interesting press release from VMware that was brought to my attention over the weekend. After reading it, I was rather perplexed as VMware makes the following statement:

“The TCO of an SBC deployment used to deliver all applications to users is 8% to 13% lower than that of a locked and well-managed PC deployment, and up to 44 to 47% lower than that of an unmanaged desktop deployment.”

This quote is clearly referencing Gartner as the source as evidenced by the following statement in the press release:

“Research firm Gartner recently compared the TCO of personal computers versus what they term server-based computing (SBC).”

I totally agree with VMware and Gartner, these are great TCO numbers. SBC saves a ton of money for many use cases such as Task Workers. Citrix has been doing this for a long time and SBC represents the Hosted Shared desktop model that is included as part of XenDesktop.

So why was I perplexed?

Well, VMware is clearly inferring that their View platform can deliver this type of TCO. This would be great for VMware except for the fact that the world for a long time defines SBC as Remote Desktop Services (formerly known as Windows Terminal Services) or Citrix XenApp and VMWare does not offer an SBC solution. VMWare only offers VDI as part of their hosted desktop offering.

Perhaps I am missing something?

Since VMware references Gartner, a very respectable industry analyst firm, as their source. I decided to look for a report I recalled from 2008 that I used as reference prior to joining Citrix. I wanted to understand if perhaps my definition of SBC was inaccurate. After a quick search I found the report available as a free download on various sites, with a direct link here. Nowhere in the report does it talk about SBC being anything else but a mature client architecture that delivers substantial TCO with the right group of users. Very much in line with the philosophy of XenDesktop that offers multiple desktop virtualization models to suit different use cases and budgets. While the numbers in this report are different from what the press release says, I do assume that the latest report referred to is an update. I don’t have Gartner’s permission to use that report or quote from it, but I am confident that if the fundamental definition of SBC was changing, somebody at Citrix would have been consulted as part of the process.

Surely something can’t be right here, so I thought let me go and check to see if there is anything in the desktop geek community that I may have missed. I checked Brian Madden’s site and even as far back as 2007 there is a very clear distinction as to what is SBC vs. VDI. I also checked on Doug Brown’s site and even there I see no obvious references to believe that VDI should be thought of as SBC. So it remains a mystery to me how such a press release could have been approved….

Integrity and ethics seem to be optional at VMware

I also came across a blog written prior to me joining Citrix which talks about the same misdirection, dating all the way back to 2009. It also references another Brian Madden blog that calls out VMware misleading TCO with their VDI solution. It seems the same tactics are in full force at VMware and nothing has changed. Wow! Am I really writing this? How can anybody trust them? This is why I guess they fudge their quarterly desktop financials by hiding VMware Workstation revenues with VDI. Certain analysts may be blind to the obvious, but clearly customers are not buying it as there would be no need for such shenanigans if View was delivering value broadly.

Do people really understand that VDI is not desktop virtualization?

What perplexes me the most is that the press release, which includes customer quotes supporting the inference has been circulating for several days and nobody else including VMware or any other vendor has raised an eyebrow that would get one to correct what obviously is misleading. Certainly, I don’t blame people for not catching it, as it’s very subtle and easy to miss if you don’t bother to read or understand what looks like a bog standard harmless press release. Perhaps that’s the underhanded tactics that VMware now has to resort to after being called out numerous times in the past….

Irrespective of solution, it hurts our industry when customers are presented with inaccurate information from the so called “experts”. That’s very different from saying it was just a marketing oversight or an honest mistake. It also does not mean that one can’t achieve a great TCO with the VDI model, but that is not the point of this post.

Is this due to a lack of understanding or is it something more sinister?

It’s certainly more than creative liberty but I’ll reserve final judgement until VMware has had an opportunity to respond. What I will however say is, it’s about time many more customers, analysts and media woke up and understood that VDI is a dangerous term that is thrown around by too many naive people who don’t understand that desktop virtualization is so much more. There are just way too many customers with use cases like Task Workers that even VMware admits can be addressed with SBC and its excellent TCO that is part of XenDesktop. VDI is not the same thing as SBC and VDI is not desktop virtualization.Desktop virtualization is a comprehensive solution that includes VDI and allows you to tailor desktop delivery to meet your enterprise users’ requirements, from task to mobile workers.

So beware and don’t be naive…

If VMware’s intent was just to point out how great SBC is as part of desktop virtualization, then I’ll say thank you for pointing out what VMWare View doesn’t provide this functionality and therefore results in a higher TCO than XenDesktop. If this is anything else, well at least on this Valentines Day VMware can send flowers to all those customers who may be just a tad miffed.

PR response from VMware and my counter

VMware updates press release with quote removed. Guess we can move on.

VMware responds with scripted PR

Yesterday I pointed out how VMware was inappropriately trying to infer that a quote showing substantial savings from a Gartner Server Based Computing (SBC) research report was somehow applicable to VMware View which offers no such solution. VMware responded with a scripted PR statement on the CRN site that is geared towards VARS and technology integrators in response to coverage from Kevin McLaughlin. Below are some highlights from the Kevin’s article which includes a response from VMware.

Reporter Quote
“VMware says the Gartner figures quoted in the press release referred to Wyse’s portfolio of thin, zero and cloud PC client solutions, which support both SBC and VDI.”

VMWare Quote
“It is appropriate for Wyse to choose to feature this when talking about their products,” the VMware spokesperson said in an e-mail. “VMware’s portion of the announcement featured customer momentum and results related to our portfolio of desktop and application virtualization technologies.”

Repeat offender

Before I respond to the quotes it’s worth pointing out that in 2009 an earlier version of the report was also called into question. VMworld – Misuse of Gartner’s TCO Numbers to Make the Case for View

Who is VMware trying to fool?

VMware is trying to wriggle its way out of responsibility for a press release on their corporate website and pin it on a partner with plausible deniability. Really VMware? Do VMware really except anybody to believe that a thin client TCO in combination with SBC where you have no solution can reasonably be merged into a quote in a single press release? It is rather insulting to assume that people are that dumb. It is therefore not appropriate under any stretch of the imagination. The fact that VMware is a repeat offender is also inexcusable.

Who did VMware pin the tail on in 2009 when similar facts were misrepresented? They also take a very similar tact when it comes to PCoIP. The reality is VMware have failed to take any responsibility for their continued pattern of outrageous fud with respect to TCO with VMware View. This kind of fud is designed to confuse and conflate customers, partners, the channel and integrators.

Fundamentally VMware is trying to defend an inaccurate press release. After a history of getting away with elastic facts, getting caught twice, the appropriate thing to do would be to retract the statement and claims of SBC having anything to do with VMware.

Update: VMware removes quote in updated press release.

The Motorola ATRIX equipped with Citrix Receiver is the first smartphone to live up to the promise of the NirvanaPhone and it’s a reality now! As a killer consumer smartphone, the Atrix has awesome specs: Nvidia 1 Ghz Tegra 2 dual-core CPU, 1G RAM, 4 inch screen, Android 2.2, HDMI out, etc. This device tops any specs available on today’s smartphones; however, the best new feature is called webtop, because it transforms the high-end smartphone into a NirvanaPhone when docked. Instantly Webtop is launched and displays the video output at resolutions up to 1280×1024 on a standard PC display or TV. There is also a optional laptop dock that converts the smartphone into a real laptop alternative. Running inside the Webtop environment is a full function Firefox browser AND Citrix Receiver! The Firefox browser provides native web access including Flash and HTML5 as well as a window into the local Android apps including the phone and text functions. You can even use the full-size keyboard for texting.

The real magic happens when you launch Citrix Receiver. Go to your company logon page and sign in (two-factor security like RSA is fully functional) and you’re presented with your Web Interface list of Windows work applications from XenApp, or a full Windows 7 Virtual Desktop provided by XenDesktop. The apps run just as if it were a local PC, and often faster. If someone calls your presented with the option to answer or ignore and you can speak though the speakerphone or Bluetooth headset while working in your Citrix session.

We have been talking about this NirvanaPhone vision for years, the basic spec is to provide high resolution video-out, full function keyboard and mouse/trackpad, and access to a virtual desktop. This is the dream of millions of laptop luggers who may need to work from anywhere but would love to leave the laptop behind. It always seemed possible, but not quite practical or complete with previous smartphones. I can tell you that I have been using this setup for months and it really works, it’s not just demoware. I’ve used it at work with the dock, at home with various TVs and displays, in hotel rooms with the LCD TV, in guest cubicles with PC monitors, and with meeting room projectors. There are a few remaining limitations, but nothing to keep this setup from making any road warrior or knowledge worker more mobile and productive immediately. Most companies provide cubicles/offices for their employees, contractors, and guests, and many come equipped with a PC display – it would be great if they all did to speed adoption. Plus, although a popup virtual keyboard is available in webtop trackpad mode, adding a dock & a USB or Bluetooth keyboard would satisfy the desire for a physical keyboard. In the past, Bluetooth keyboards have been expensive, but the Microsoft keyboard shown is only $43, so providing a generic solution is not prohibitive. Finding TVs with HDMI is easy, but legacy VGA-only connectors for PC displays and projectors is still prevalent, so expect to need an HDMI to VGA adapter for the cable bag. The Atrix uses industry standard micro USB and mini HDMI, so the cables are readily available and cheap vs. proprietary alternatives. Of course, now there is also another option to bring along the laptop dock and use it like a laptop.

For the Citrix sessions, the performance is excellent. Audio is currently not supported and not all of the HDX features are available, however, it’s easy to multitask and minimize the Citrix session and run YouTube and audio with the native Firefox browser, or even take phone calls. In “windowed” mode (vs. full screen) the webtop environment can display Citrix hosted apps alongside native Firefox windows, plus an Android window making a phone call at the same time.
This really is a NirvanaPhone… the future has arrived!

Full Demo with the HD Docking Station (3 min)

Demo with Trackpad feature and Bluetooth Keyboard (2 min)

Short Demo (55 sec)

Stay tuned for more demos…

Edited post-hoc. A tad over the top. No offence intended Elias!

I’ve been enjoying a quiet start to the year – twitter and blog-wise that is. I turned on tweetdeck for a bit, but to be honest, I really can’t decipher @Beaker. Is it gibberish, or a secret code controlling an army of cloud-based “RT: @Beaker” bots? (#envy). (If you’re lost, #fail, and skip the next paragraph too.)

Then, just as I was about to get on with my day-job, I got a mention from @ekhnaser (#gloat)

“New Article: #Citrix, #VMware, #Storage Vendors Invited To talk #emc #hdscorp @harrylabana @simoncrosby @herrod

OK, I’ll bite, and if you’re looking for a quick response before moving on, this chap is woefully confused.

Let’s take a look. The first thing that strikes me about Elias’s article is that @herrod is highly unlikely to respond to his challenge. Why? Well for starters he uses DVI (Desktop Virtualization Infrastructure) instead of VMware’s term: VDI. Moreover Steve does have a pretty big job on his hands trying to complete Project Redwood.

The weather is far from awful in DVI land, as Elias seems to think. But he is right to point out that it has been bad in the past. His point is that with traditional enterprise storage architectures representing as much as 60% of TCO, Hosted Virtual Desktops just don’t make financial sense. The problem? Well, back in the days when VDI meant something, one would create and store a complete Windows client OS VM per user – their hosted virtual desktop. One would likely use VMFS to “manage” storage, making it impossible for the arrays to understand the structure of the real storage task (virtual disk images). With the storage infrastructure flying blind and unable to assist with placement, caching or read-ahead, performance was terrible, and the only way to solve the problem was to buy more storage, and more expensive SAN networking.

So, all the vendors “ran around hysterically” as Elias says, and started to innovate. There has been a flood of new technology – SSD and RAM based caches, array-based thin clones and snapshots, and lots more to boot. The storage ecosystem has done a fabulous job. We at Citrix have always viewed our role as being one that relies on utilizing as much functionality as possible in the storage infrastructure. We love innovative storage partners. For more than two years XenServer (via StorageLink) has had the ability, for example, to leverage in-array snapshots, thin provisioning and fast-clones. But the demons haunting DV storage have their roots in Moore’s Law. A single modern server can generate more IOPS than any array can satisfy. And technology will continue to favor server IOPS on the road ahead.

So, ultimately the solution lies in a proper decomposition of the DV storage problem into its constituent parts. Properly managed, the user’s desktop is composed of the user’s environment, apps and golden OS, and these can be dynamically composed (using various virtualization technologies) on the fly, to build the user’s desktop. Now, on a server running lots of virtual desktops, why would the hypervisor ever pull the golden image Windows desktop over the network more than once? It wouldn’t – the golden image OS should just be there already, and indeed it ought to be shared across all VMs. Ditto for the apps.

Moreover, when we examined the I/O performance of hosted desktop VMs we found that writes outnumbered reads, by as much as 8:1. The culprit? The Windows Page File. According to Chris Wolf’s analysis, the page file should never leave the server. Instead, it is cached locally either on disk or (better) SSD. Finally, a major cause of write IO latency in the storage subsystem is the nearly random behavior of the disk heads when faced with I/O from a large number of desktops. So we eliminated that, by caching writes locally, and transacting large sequential writes to the storage infrastructure.

This is Intellicache – a feature Elias thinks is cool but irrelevant. Well, he’s wrong. Intellicache reduces HVD IOPS by as much as 98%! What ends up hitting shared storage is .. precisely what you wanted – the user’s differences from the golden image state. He’s right in stating that you can’t use live relo with today’s implementation of Intellicache. Big deal – this is a desktop remember! Moreover, he might want to note that we still manage two platform releases per year.

Elias also thinks that Intellicache is not useful for cloud storage. Dude, have you ever been inside a large cloud? Local storage is all that they use. Intellicache is perfect for “instant on” of any OpenStack based cloud workload. He also says “with all due respect, local disk is dead”. My response: Moore’s Law (and Google, Facebook, and every other massive infrastructure you use daily) says you are utterly, totally, irrationally and profoundly wrong.

Yesterday at VMworld I endured sitting through a mind numbing session hosted by VMware End User Computing (formerly desktop) CTO, Scott Davis. This was a session where Scott made bold erroneous claims and assertions which I tweeted about. Then I saw this tweet from @claytonprice

claytonprice: Where do I find the desktop panel discussion featuring Scott Davis and @harrylabana? I can’t find it in the schedule! #vmworld

I responded “he’s scared” in jest. However as I think about this, I wonder if this is true. Earlier this year Brian Madden asked me if I would be willing to have an open debate at BriForum about the desktop on a panel that would include Scott Davis and myself. I agreed to it, but Scott apparently declined and instead opted to present a riveting session on his future vision which was met with thunderous ZZZZZZZZZZZ.

In today’s 90 minute VMworld keynote, a generous 10 minutes was granted to talk about the desktop. We learned VMware CTO Steven Herrod likes to play a lot of Minesweeper. He also asserted that Windows was not very relevant and that the desktop of the future is all SaaS based. Hmm feels a lot like the Citrix Dazzle strategy extended to SaaS, but with the delusion that Windows is not relevant. Nonetheless a good discussion to have.

So since this is VMworld, and the desktop is important to VMware, let’s arrange to have a public discussion on the topic, no need for canned PR scripts. Let’s talk about the desktop today and the desktop of tomorrow. Perhaps if they are willing we can have Brian Madden or Chris Wolf moderate at a neutral location? We’re all here in San Francisco so we can even arrange some logistics now.

The question is, Scott are you up to discussing the desktop or do we continue to listen to fantasy’s of desktops morphing into SaaS based applications everywhere and Windows going away?

At Synergy San Francisco we held the inaugural Citrix CTO crystal ball session where a number of the CTO Office team presented ideas and demos of future technologies and directions. At Berlin we’ll be doing the same thing and raising the bar again on the demo’s and topics covered. Look forward to seeing Simon Crosby, Harry Labana, Kurt Roemer and I present with some pretty cool demos.

I’ll be covering mobility, and specifically some new directions we are taking that may surprise you. For example Citrix has had a strategy where we have provided a version of Receiver for practically any mobile device and we continue on that path. However in the last three years the explosion of new smartphone platforms has enabled numerous new possibilities as to how we can deliver enterprise content to these new phones. The always on connectivity and decent screen real estate are key drivers.

In the session I’ll demonstrate how an Enterprise developer can write a touch enabled application that is published from a XenApp server, and accessed from a range of devices, both Smartphone and tablets. So if you have a problem with your CIO or CEO demanding support for iPhones, Blackberry, Android, WebOS and other yet to be invented tablets and Smartphones, then this is the session for you.

You can find more information on the CTO Crystal Ball session here
Looking forward to seeing you in Berlin!

Learn more about Citrix Synergy Berlin

 Kevin Rose the founder of Digg made a prediction in a recent post about how the rumored $99 iTV will change everything. He make great points about how this could disrupt the Cable TV market and provide a great interactive TV experience for consumers.  This makes me think about whether the iTV could also provide a great platform for business apps as well. Certainly Apple is not targeting businesses with this device, however the same could be said of the iPhone and iPad when they came out. Regardless of the intent, consumers also have day jobs and found ways to put these devices to work.  

At $99 the price is right for a low maintenance Thin Client with a great experience. This could be appealing to many companies including small business or even home offices that may have conceptually considered Thin Clients, but the overhead of learning/implementing/managing a thin client platform was not worth the effort for a small number of devices. For larger companies with security concerns, iOS is fairly locked down already and there is a growing ecosystem of Mobile Device Management solutions that can provide higher levels of control. Including the ability to restrict/prevent time waster apps from being installed. This solution could be ideal for guest offices & cubicles, conference rooms with projectors or HDTV’s, or any task based workstation at many Mac centric organizations. Hotel rooms would be a no-brainer.  

What about a mouse? Yes currently this is an issue. Consider this, if the Apple Magic Trackpad will support iTV then gestures and mouse functions can be enabled as it does with Macs. Problem solved ! Even without the Magic Trackpad it is also possible for apps like Receiver to pair an iPhone with an iPad€‰ and serve as a trackpad, so applying this for iTV is not a stretch. There is also ample opportunity for 3rd party keyboard/mouse vendors to provide some great solutions.  

iPhone apps on an iTV ? Even if the hundreds of thousands of iOS apps works with iTV they won’t necessarily look good stretched on a big screen, even the iPhone apps look awkward on the iPad. However if the apps would run as widgets on the “desktop” of a large display this could provide a useful workspace. Apple would need to endorse/allow this but it could be appealing.

Business Apps for the iOS are appearing all the time and many could be appropriate for this scenario, safari web apps and HTML5 apps can work at any size.

Virtual Desktops from an app like Citrix Receiver can provide access to most existing Windows business apps and desktops just as they do today with traditional Thin Clients. Many companies already have the required Infrastructure in place or are considering Desktop Virtualization as an alternative to Windows 7 PC migration/replacements. 

So would the rumored “iTV” really displace the existing niche of Thin Clients ? No. However as we have already seen with iPhones breaking into the enterprise and the iPad successfully defining the Tablet as the 3rd screen most people will have, we could see the iTV legitimize the Thin Client form factor and function plus make it pervasive ( and cool  ).

That would change everything… again..    

The IT executive experience

I was listening to a customer on stage at a conference a few weeks ago proudly explaining how he had managed to police the number of devices in his organization. He accomplished this by effectively implementing three key strategies.

1) Create red tape, and make the end user produce business justification and feel silly about why the corporate issued solution was not good enough.

2) Control budget centrally under IT.

3) Find ways to punish people through bonuses who abused his system by purchasing services outside IT.

I thought I was watching the next installment of Jurassic park and the dinosaurs had returned. Surely this guy drove a Lada……. If you are not familiar with the Lada, it’s an old eastern block car that was widely used and deemed to be appropriate and cost effective for the masses by the state. While this may seem like a good idea at first the results over time are eloquently expressed in this video. To me this is where a lot of old school IT thinking is taking us. Creating inertia to bring innovation to it’s knees by not embracing user choice that will lead to new ways to work.

I was actually surprised that this IT executive had that much control in his organization. Then it dawned on me, that this is a respected conference and the best customer example they could muster. I parked the experience at the back of mind, after wrestling with the thought – can IT organizations still be that backward and remain relevant? I know having worked in IT all these years, I would have never survived with that mindset.

Last week I asked a major customer how many MACS they had in their environment. Less than 1% of the environment had IT supported MACS and they were all senior executives. They estimated that 25% of their population weighted towards more senior people had personal owned MACS that they would prefer to use for work. In this particular case the customer was looking to hosted desktop virtualization (HVD, includes VDI and XenApp hosted published desktops/apps solutions) to enable more choice but looking forward wanted to understand what to do about mobility including tablets and offline use.

When I think about these two customers, clearly there is a gap between what people need/want, and what IT is willing to do vs. what is possible. As mobility and SaaS based applications and other cloud based services enable more on demand IT services, the tension between user and IT will only get worse. So this can only be ignored for so long, as business users will demand more choice and the forces of consumerization will continue to reshape the landscape. The stodgy old IT organization of the past will be hard pressed to maintain status quo and remain relevant.

We ask ourselves all the time, what can we do to help the tension between the changing user wants and the IT need to provide governance and manage costs? The better known models of HVD address many of the use cases. However there is still a need to extend the benefits of desktop virtualization technology to millions of laptops to enable new ways for both users and IT to work.

This is why we are announcing XenDesktop feature pack 2, which includes XenClient and XenVault technologies. These technologies are focused on bringing virtualization to the client.

There has been a lot of discussion for some time in the industry regarding the various client use cases and ownership models. Citrix has conducted internal programs for bring your own computer (BYOC), and researched this space with customers and learned a lot. We find it’s helpful to think about two primary use cases.

The corporate owned laptop

Data security on laptops is a huge reputational risk for any company. Check out the laptop loser hall of shame. Anybody who has had to deal with laptop management, understands they are complex to update and recover and user demands for greater control to personalize to their needs results in compromised IT control. All indications are the number of laptops in the world is increasing further compounding the problem and burden on IT.


As a bare metal hypervisor, XenClient enables the OS to be delivered as a “bubble” to the laptop that is encrypted, secured and enables us to take advantage of hardware attestation through our partnership with Intel leveraging vPro technology so you boot into a trusted operating system. When this important capability is made available it will help assure an organization that the guest VM is being booted on a trusted piece of hardware and that the corporate issued hardware is booting a trusted guest. The laptop loser hall of shame organizations could have spared themselves a lot of reputational damage if they had had XenClient. How do you measure the cost of reputational damage? It’s something that take years to build and seconds to loose…..

Some people push back and exclaim that the number of machines that support XenClient today is small and therefore this is not relevant. I would ask, for a corporate fleet how many models do you support? I would make a confident guess that it’s a subset of models that you support today if you are a true enterprise customer driven by standards. For those use cases, XenClient today offers a very prescriptive secure solution. For organizations that have far more diverse corporate owned laptop fleets, XenClient offers a way to offer a new more secure model that could be tied to better service levels, and over time the supported device list will continue to grow. Others argue they have full disk encryption solutions deployed. So did I in my previous life. My users hated the performance overhead, the multi stage login and then of course there is the additional cost of the solutions themselves that offer limited flexibility.

Another key use case to consider when thinking about XenClient is what happens in the event of lose or theft of a corporate issued laptop. You can get a taste for the liability this poses here, here and here. To help customers deal with these types of solutions, XenClient provides the ability for you to backup and synchronize critical data in the event of laptop lose and policies to render a laptop useless in the event of theft. Note you do not have to deploy VDI to benefit from this. You are not checking in and checking out a VM from a VDI infrastructure, so restoring your critical data to a secure laptop is a much lighter weight operation with a powerful but straight forward ability for IT to control centrally.

XenClient will also allow you to run multiple VMs on a single laptop so you can provide a user with multiple environments. This opens up the possibility of providing multiple corporate guests on a single machine. One could be very secure where you access corporate data. The other could be slightly more open to allow more access to internet sites within your corporate guidelines. For developers the second guest could be their development/Test/QA environments. They could even have Linux development environments side by side with their Windows development environment, yet still securely able to work from their corporate environment all from one machine. All of this opens up the possibility of BYOC user flexibility on corporate owned assets and enable you to take a step forward if you are not comfortable with the user owned model.

It’s also important to realize that XenClient is not limited to just serving up multiple guest OS VMs. It is a very flexible architecture that can be extended further to enable specialty VMs to perform different service functions. This begins to open up so many possibilities beyond the immediate security benefits. Over time it is not a leap of faith to think of use cases like security scanning being performed by dedicated VMs. Perhaps there will be specialized VMs that perform the tasks of patch management, VMs that update software, VMs that run just one app more securely and synch back to data center. The possibilities are endless, and as the eco system evolves it will be fascinating to watch innovations surface as the industry begins to realize what is possible.

Contractor or employee owned laptop

Interestingly a number of customers I have spoken to in regulated industries, have told me that they would like to get rid of all or at least significantly reduce the number of laptops they manage to help reduce risk. For them hosted desktop virtualization is a more secure environment to let users access from personal owned laptops that are self managed. These are also the customers that are interested in using multiple VMs on a single user owned machine machine with XenClient. Some argue that there are legal issues here. However based on the feedback that I have received from these customers they interpret these concerns as unfounded if they secure the corporate operating system on the user owned device. The usability of multiple VMs on a single machine is something that will continue to evolve and will be an interesting area of innovation to watch.

Clearly there is no silver bullet that fits every customer. So depending upon your needs it’s prudent to understand the options. More importantly, understanding that today XenClient is primarily driven by security and the ability to centrally provide updates to distributed laptops is key. XenClient can be used in a simple single VM mode for greater security and multi VM mode for more flexibility using employee owned or corporate owned assets. I’ve blogged about this previously.

XenVault – enabling portable data

There is a valid argument put forward, that for the BYOC use cases, not every user needs a full rich desktop experience. All they need is quick access to an application, some data securely and of course they want mobility. Further there are many cases where users have older hardware that is not capable of running a hypervisor or there is just not enough horsepower on a lower end machine such as a Netbook. Once again hosted desktop virtualization would provide a solution. But in cases where hosted desktop virtualization has not been deployed or where there is the need to work offline another solution is required. XenVault is a new technology designed to meet these use cases. Essentially it is a secure area on the operating system where all application and data I/O is securely redirected. In many respects it’s like having a virtual secure USB drive with you. The difference now is that you don’t have to carry it around, worry about losing it and IT does not have to invest in fleets of USB drives for their staff. XenVault is designed to be transparent to users and quick for IT to setup with remote lock and delete data features. Joe Nord has a good blog that explains some of the inner workings. XenVault provides contractors and employees on consumer owned machines, apps and data on-demand in a secure manner and IT the ability to de-provision instantly.

For me this is yet another example of the benefit that virtualization can bring to desktop use cases. Making data securely portable and simple to access takes another step towards the stateless desktop as I wrote here. The stateless desktop helps us move away from hard coding all our configuration into a single OS image and then trying to manage all the complexity. Abstraction at all levels of the desktops enables greater agility. XenVault is a great example of what can happen when you think about the abstraction of data, that is typically addressed by file shares on a network that assume you have connectivity. Instead now you can protect the data and use it where and when you need. The focus on protecting the data makes it lightweight, no need to install a heavy weight shell like a Type 2 hypervisor solution that would be very clumsy as a data portability solution across multiple machines. Now if I don’t have my machine, and need to look at data securely I have a technology that could provide me that access and not leave unsecure footprints. If somebody sends me a file share with a sensitive document, I have a place to download and view it securely offline on a Netbook that may not belong to me. Many new possibilities begin to open up because the data is abstracted in a stateless desktop.

Personally I’ve been amazed at how quickly Citrix has been able to bring XenVault to market. Here’s the internal scoop. Over the holiday period in late 2009, our CEO Mark Templeton kicked of a competition called Moonlight (since it was an after hours project) for anybody within Citrix to come up with a solution. Within weeks we had multiple entries and a team led by Joe Nord picked a winner and we announced it at Citrix Synergy in San Francisco in May 2010 and now we are going to market. That’s rapid development! I’m very proud of our teams who pulled it off, I am sure they will look forward to community feedback as you kick the tires.

Can stodgy IT remain relevant?

I am sure it can, and there is plenty of precedence. The real question is, what does that do for your organization and the kind of people it will attract? Do you really want your IT leaders up on stage with a Lada mentality? Or do you want your IT leaders looking beyond constraints and embracing solutions that empower user choice, increase security, improve manageability, optimize provisioning and de-provisioning, increase satisfaction/productivity and drive greater organizational agility?

Mobility and diversity of client devices will continue to grow. The laptop will represent a big chunk of that market. Anything that technology can do to reduce the risk while making users lives easier surely is a positive step forward for our industry. Client virtualization is the next phase in the evolution of desktop virtualization that will enable users to work in new ways. It will provide central control for IT, and flexibility will be retained for users while keeping corporate data secure.

As you think about your laptop environment for Windows 7, will it be just more hair pulling trying to secure and update the new, most likely growing laptop fleet? How do your users feel about your current secure laptop experience? Why not consider XenClient and XenVault as part of those plans and extend the benefits of desktop virtualization to the Laptop?

I can’t wait for VMworld, next week. It will be fantastic to meet good friends in the virtualization industry, and to feel the freezing fog of San Francisco. And with any luck, I’ll be able to breeze through the halls of the virtualization glitterati undetected, even though my accent bears similarities to that of Mr. Maritz. While on that topic, I sometimes wonder why the Southern African subcontinent has such a striking presence in the world of virtualization: many of the EC2 crew, Paul Maritz, the chaps at Nimbula, and, far behind, me.

I’m also excited about some VMworld sessions. One in particular caught my attention. It’s being run by the VMware minister of misinformation, Eric Horschmann. I’ve crossed swords with him before, and the only thing that’s remarkable is that he’s still hard at it, peddling his view of the future of IT. I call it Horsch-IT. So, if you want to know which will be the hottest session at VMworld, here it is:

PA9449 – Session Title: Winning Against Server Virtualization Competitors: Leading with VMware Strengths, Handling Objections, and Setting Traps

Schedule Information: Tuesday, 2:00 PM (Room: Moscone West Room 3014)
US Speaker: Mark Chuang Group Manager, Product Marketing, VMware, Inc.
Eric Horschman Product Marketing Director, VMware, Inc.

Abstract: (VMware Partners only) Attend this session to learn how to clearly articulate VMware’s advantages in the datacenter and put the competition on the defensive. We’ll demonstrate VMware’s cost advantage against so-called “free” offerings and debunk the most common claims made by competitors. We’ll also show you how to set RFP/POC traps for Microsoft and Citrix that will make it impossible for them to win the deal.

For those (VMware Partners only) that attend this session, I’ll be looking forward to meeting you at XenServer customers, where, it seems (given our download rates, and the number of clouds over 10,000 servers that we’ve built this year) there appears to be no issue understanding that Free = Free always. I love springing my friend Mr Horschmann’s traps. To be perfectly honest, I’m looking forward to seeing him fall into his own trap.