In just over a month from now, we will see each other in San Francisco at Synergy 2011. As you might imagine, we are busy making preparations, from building demos to showcase our latest products and technologies to working out our presentations.  Here’s a sneak peak of where I’m heading with the session, “What’s new in XenDesktop: The inside scoop.”
As the product marketing manager for XenDesktop, I have the luxury of working with many different delivery models of virtual desktops. From hosted-shared (session virtualization) desktops for task workers, to streamed-diskless PCs, to local VM desktops with XenClient, and hosted VDI, Citrix FlexCast technology enables the delivery of a  portfolio of desktop technologies that can cover any use case. For this session, however, the main focus will be on Hosted VDI desktops. 

The popularity of Hosted-VDI desktops has grown alongside the revolutionary success of server virtualization, but while popular, it can be a confusing technology as the space has transformed so quickly over the past few years. There have also been many IT shops, in the past, to experiment with VDI, only to find bottlenecks and shortcomings that made it suitable for tactical deployments, but not an enterprise-wide answer to deploying a distributed-managed PC environment.
Citrix has been a leading driver in the development and delivery of VDI products and technology and we are now on what what I call the “third generation” of VDI. In this third generation, technologies have been purpose built from ground up to optimize the enterprise desktop for datacenter delivery. But before I give away the punchline, let’s do a quick review of previous generations.
First-Generation VDI

First Generation VDI goes back as far as server virtualization. IT professionals were already consolidating low-utilization servers onto virtual infrastructure getting immediate benefits by reducing hardware costs and managing servers as a collection of files in storage rather than physical machines. These same pros realized they could take the same approach to desktops by simply utilizing the remote desktop connection through RDP. At first, these desktops were used for development and testing environments. Soon, pioneers began writing their own custom brokers to connect less-savyy users to their desktops in the datacenter and an industry was born. The limitations of these 1st generation architectures are now well known. First, administrators quickly learned that desktops were much harder than servers to scale on virtual infrastructure. Performance is critically tied to storage performance and terms like “logon storms” were born. While difficult, use cases sensitive to security and regulations, like financial institutions or those requiring mobility, or taking the same desktop to different endpoints, like hospitals, benefitted from these tactical installations.

Second-Generation VDI
Second generation VDI was born as industry players like Citrix and VMware along with startups began investing in building out broker infrastructure designed to solve the first generation problems to scale higher and improve user experience. While VMware worked to move beyond RDP by investing in a new remote desktop protocol called PCoIP, Citrix leveraged its 20+ years head start with remote protocol technology and produced HDX. (High definition user experience) These second-generation VDI solutions also added provisioning technologies to reduce the requirements for central storage capacity and load (IOPS).

These developments positioned hosted VDI to begin growth from the specialty niche of the first generation to large-scale broad deployments. However, building out these large-scale deployments required a great deal of expertise and custom integration.

Third-Generation VDI

Third generation VDI moves from simply solving the problems of the previous generations to building out a stack of technology from the ground up to accelerate VDI deployments and bring unprecedented value to enterprise customers. While many of these technologies were introduced in XenDesktop 5 in December of 2010, in 2011 we will continue the roll out of these 3rd generation technologies focused on delivering massive scalability with simple and robust architectures and continuing to reduce the upfront cost, and ongoing management of VDI to make it the clear replacement to distributed management PCs for most enterprise use cases.

So what does Third-Generation VDI enable?

-Manage a single (or at least very few) master images across an enterprise

-Leverage Moore’s law and the explosion of server processor cores

-Intelligently leverage local hypervisor (host) resources to reduce IOPS load on SAN with no admin intervention

-Use the same architecture to deploy and manage 100 or 10,000 desktops

-Update master images once and automatically roll out to existing desktops

-Virtualize applications and user profiles to enable highly customized desktops for any use case blurring the line between assigned and shared desktops

-Leverage local device resources to optimize the user experience

-Get access to your virtual desktop from virtually any network connection, but allow policies to dictate access to local storage, devices, and clipboard 

-The ability to manage virtual desktops as a persistent asset in Active Directory regardless of the state of the virtual machine

Do these generations look right to you? Are you ready to move to the next generation?
The “What’s New” session will focus on a few of these new third-generation technologies including:  
-Storage Optimization

Central storage has been a critical bottleneck for VDI deployments since the first-generation deployments. In many cases, even experienced server virtualization shops had to purchase new storage infrastructure with higher performance and price tags than they had ever bought before to support a VDI deployment. This session will review some of the exciting new developments from Citrix leveraging XenServer with new features purpose built for desktop virtualization that can reduce the IOPS required for VDI by up to 95%.

-Leveraging Multi-core server architecturesStorage is only part of the story.  To reduce the cost of VDI, increasing the density of desktops on servers is another cost driver.  While HDX plays a huge part in reducing server load, even more significant is the work being done by the server platform technologies dramatically increasing computing horsepower with each new advance in multicore technologies.
Adding to the CPU, are new features of XenServer and HyperV that can as much as double the number of desktops that can be run on a given amount of physical RAM.
-Single Image Management
Up till now, VDI architectures have had to choose between high efficiency management and high levels of personalization as the higher scaling provisioning models required that desktops be unassigned or pooled, meaning that users “borrowed” a generic desktop rather than getting persistent access to their own personal desktop. This is no longer the case with XenDesktop 5 and Machine Creation Services.

-User Experience Optimization

Citrix HDX technology continues to redefine expectations around remotely hosted desktops. At Synergy 2010, we discussed many of the new HDX Nitro technologies in the labs under development, and this year, we will show the results of that work. These technologies optimize the user experience over lower quality networks, and allows a VDI deployment to expand throughout an enterprise reaching the furthest remote offices.

No matter what level of experience you have had with desktop virtualization,come hear about the future of XenDesktop and then visit us in the Citrix showcase to see many of these new technologies in action. 

See you there!