Citrix Systems plans to expand its Desktop Server product into three different offerings, including one where OS components are streamed on demand to a PC or thin client over the network, using technology from its acquisition last year of Ardence.
Lou Shipley, VP and general manager of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based ISV’s management systems group, said that today, Desktop Server is a connection broker between Microsoft’s RDP and Cirix’s ICA. In the next version of the product, however, he said it will be able to run multiple virtual, hosted desktops.
He said Citrix’s flagship ICA protocol operates in publish mode, whereby multiple users are presented with a standard image. By contrast, he said Desktop Server delivers a highly configurable environment even though it is still virtual and hosted suited to environments characterized by a lot of users with high-performance requirements of their machines, such as teams of software developers who need the customizable nature of the desktop environment it offers.
These represent the first two flavors of Desktop Server, which Shipley referred to as Physical OS in which there is a single instance of the operating system delivered to the endpoint machine, and Virtual OS where multiple versions are delivered via a virtualization layer from companies like VMware.
He said the third variety, Diskless OS, will appear further down the road, once Citrix has incorporated some of the technology from the Ardence acquisition into the product. The Ardence Streaming Server will remain a standalone business through 2007, he said, but we’re working of integration, with some of the functionality going into Desktop Server.
He said the big difference for the Desktop Server product is that the Ardence streaming technology will enable the Diskless OS version, whereby Citrix will parcel out the OS to desktops as needed.
The technology has enjoyed success in markets such as the US federal government, and in particular the military, where diskless PCs are obligatory on security grounds, as well as in higher education, where institutions like the fact that students can make only transient changes to the desktop environment it delivers to them, with a reset back to the golden image every time the machine is turned on again.
Shipley said Citrix expects this model of server-based computing to also gain a foothold in the mainstream enterprise market, particularly because, though for now it is only for LAN environments, increasing bandwidths may extend its reach into WAN and even into the wireless WAN. He said app delivery analyst Brian Madden reckons OS streaming may take as much as 10% to 15% of the overall market over time.