Citrix Upgrades the Virtual Desktop with XenDesktop 3 and HDX

New technologies aims to make both thin-client and fat-client virtual desktops better for users. They also help cut hardware costs.

Citrix announced two new products to be available this month, XenDesktop 3 and HDX. Both products work to improve the virtual desktop experience, an area that's seeing more interest now that server virtualization is so accepted. So what's new?

XenDesktop 3: The new version of Citrix's "desktops as a service product promises to cut server requirements in half, as in if you used to need 50 servers running XenServer to provide 1,000 desktops, now you'll only need 25.

XenDesktop 3 also offers desktop streaming, where users can boot from an image on a server and have the bits they need to work streamed as they're needed, allowing end users to make use of local PC hardware but still giving the advantages of a single, central disk image. Citrix officials said desktop streaming would work on a 100 Mbps LAN and about 500 desktops could be supported per server.

Another notable feature in XenDesktop 3 is its built-in profile management. XenDesktop 3 lets users share a pool of virtualized desktop that keep personal settings, but also reins in Windows profiles' tendency to get too larges by managing what data gets stored.

HDX: HDX is a set of technologies that's already partially available in Citrix products, but in XenDesktop 3 some new abilities are introduced. MediaStream sends compressed Internet media streams straight to the client for decoding and viewing instead of processing the streams on the server. Because the client decodes the videos they look better, and the server doesn't have to send all that video data to the client.

HDX also includes improvements to Citrix's network protocols to improve reliability, deal with network drops, and reduce WAN usage.

"Overall, it just feels snappier," said Calvin Hsu, director of product marketing at Citrix

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