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Citrix Systems (NASDAQ:CTXS) last week delivered a one-two punch in the battle for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) differentiation with the introduction of XenDesktop 3 and Citrix HDX high-definition technology, promising to lower costs associated with servers and storage in the data center.

XenDesktop 3
, a key component of the Santa Clara, Calif. company's Citrix Delivery Center, now incorporates several of the HDX technologies, providing a richer multimedia experience for users and increasing the number of desktops per server. According to the announcement, the latest version of XenDesktop can also host twice as many virtual desktops from a single server.

Also, the new version can deliver Microsoft Windows desktops from a common set of centrally managed images that can be run either as a hosted application in the data center or locally on a PC or thin-client device.

Another feature is the HDX media streaming capability, by which Desktop 3 sends compressed media streams to endpoint devices and plays them locally. This allows IT administrators to have the applications run wherever it's more efficient and cost effective.

I'm still curious about Abode Flash presentations via XenDesktop VDI. Desktone and Wyse have been working on that for some time. Wyse is also partnering with Citrix, but I didn't see any mention of Flash (perhaps in a genuflection to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)?).

Management of VDI is also simplified in XenDesktop 3 with a fully integrated profile management, which provides a consistent personalized experience for each user every time they log in.

The new features include broad support for smart-card security, which moves virtual desktop capability in those markets -- government, financial services, and healthcare -- that rely on smart-card authentication. Rounding out the new XenDesktop capabilities is USB plug-and-play capability for transparent support of all types of local devices, including digital cameras, smart phones, MP3 players, and scanners.

I'm a big fan of VDI and think it offers even more in a strapped economy. If netbooks are all the rage, then why not VDI too (or VDI on older PCs that can't well run Vista or Windows 7?)

Also announced Wednesday was the HDX high-definition technology, which adds enhancements for multimedia, voice, video, and 3D graphics. It also includes “adaptive orchestration” technology that senses underlying capabilities in the data center, network and device, and dynamically optimizes performance across the end-to-end delivery system to fit each unique user scenario. This allows HDX-enabled products to leverage the latest user experience innovations developed by third-party software, server, device and processor partners.

Six categories of HDX technologies work together to provide multimedia capability. These include a broad range of new and existing technologies that extend throughout the Citrix Delivery Center product family.

  • HDX MediaStream – Accelerates multimedia performance by sending compressed streams to endpoints and playing them locally.
  • HDX RealTime – Enhances real-time communications using advanced bi-directional encoding and streaming technologies to ensure a no compromise end-user experience.
  • HDX 3D – Optimizes the performance of everything from graphics-intensive 2D environments to advanced 3D geospatial applications using software and hardware based rendering in the datacenter and on the device.
  • HDX Plug-n-Play – Enables simple connectivity for all local devices in a virtualized environment, including USB, multi-monitor, printers and user-installed peripherals.
  • HDX Broadcast – Ensures reliable, high-performance acceleration of virtual desktops and applications over any network, including high-latency and low-bandwidth environments.
  • 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 XenDesktop 3 will be generally available from authorized Citrix partners this month, and from the Citrix website. Suggested retail pricing begins at $75 per concurrent user.

Source: Citrix Takes Two Steps Forward in Virtual Desktop Development