Citrix answers to VMware View 4.0 with XenDesktop 4.0

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Yesterday Citrix announced the forthcoming release of XenDesktop 4.0, which will be available November 16.

The Citrix answer to the upcoming VMware View 4.0 (and its software version of Teradici PCoIP protocol) is more aggressive than ever.

First of all, the XenDesktop 4.0 Enterprise and Platinum editions are going to include a full, unrestricted edition of XenApp.
The new strategy at Citrix, called FlexCast, is to make no distinction between a desktop deployed on a virtual machine (what we call today VDI), one on a bare metal machine, or one served by a terminal services farm.
XenDesktop plus XenApp are going to allow remote access to all these desktops or to some of their applications, along with application and OS streaming where applicable.


It wouldn’t be too surprising if, over time, Citrix would decide to completely fade out XenApp as a stand-alone technology and name, to focus just on the XenDesktop brand.

The second thing is that the new HDX adaptive technology (which includes the ICA protocol) has been further improved and includes the following components:

  • HDX MediaStream for Flash
    Accelerates multimedia performance sending Flash content in its native compressed format to the user’s device and leveraging the local processing power for playback to provide truly local PC-like performance.
  • HDX RealTime
    Enhances real-time communications by enabling support for webcams and improving voice and music audio quality while still consuming minimal bandwidth.
  • HDX Plug-n-Play
    Enhances support for specialized keyboards (such as the Bloomberg keyboard) and dictation devices like the Philips Speechmike; Also provides users with flexibility to customize their multi-monitor configurations with special screen arrangements (such as U, L, T, reverse L and inverse T shapes) and different sizes, resolutions and orientations.
  • HDX 3D
    Extends desktop virtualization to advanced users of CAD/CAM and engineering applications, even over WAN connections. HDX 3D enables organizations to source talent on a global basis, rapidly provision those workers with high powered desktops and professional 3D applications, yet maintain centralized control over intellectual property.
  • HDX IntelliCache
    Optimizes performance and network utilization for multiple users by caching bandwidth intensive data and graphics throughout the infrastructure and transparently delivering them as needed from the most efficient location.

Citrix also changed the licensing model of XenDesktop, moving from a concurrent user model to a named user model, as Brian Madden details in his coverage.
Chris Wolf, Senior Analyst at Burton Group, has additional insights about this topic that are really worth a check.

Last but not least, XenDesktop 4.0 ships with both XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V (and continues to support VMware ESX).
Which is like saying that to Citrix it’s completely irrelevant now which hypervisor you use. They just want the premium profit coming from the renewed global effort to centralize the employees workstations.

And to be absolutely sure that XenDesktop arrives in the enterprise customers’ hands, XenDesktop 4.0 is going to be available free of charge to the ones that subscribed the software assurance. Even if it now packs more features than previous versions.
All the others, with a special focus on the XenApp customers which represent the core business of Citrix, the company is offering a remarkable trade-up program to convert them into XenDesktop customers.

Update: The XenDesktop 4.0 licensing change (and its pricing policy) didn’t encounter the favor of customers and prospects.
Citrix reacted quickly to try to recover the positive mood around the product features, and promised to “actively investigating appropriate licensing programs for XenDesktop 4 to address [the use cases where the per-named-user licensing doesn’t work]”.

Citrix has four big challenges:

  • How move its core audience from presentation virtualization (XenApp) to hardware virtualization+application virtualization+presentation virtualization (XenDesktop)
  • How to attract a new class of customers, that are more interested in hardware virtualization than presentation virtualization
  • How to build a brand awareness (which implies trust) that can rival with VMware in the hardware virtualization market VMware leads
  • How to justify the jump to and create confidence in desktop virtualization

As Brian Madden already said in his article, the reactions that this licensing change provoked don’t seem to help Citrix in solving any of the four above.