Hard to believe that it’s been just one year since we first made XenClient, our bare metal client hypervisor, available to the world back at Citrix Synergy 2010. Since that time we’ve more than doubled the size of the XenClient development team (including hiring some of the most brilliant deep systems developers I’ve ever worked with) and had a flood of wish list feedback and great ideas for enhancements from the more than 100,000 people who download our initial XenClient 1 release and tested it in just about every conceivable use case.

Over the past year, the rapidly growing XenClient team has been working incredibly hard to incorporate all that feedback into the product. We’ve also been working closely with industry partners like Intel, HP, Lenovo, Dell and AMD to make sure everything we’re building into XenClient takes advantage of millions of PCs, laptops and peripherals already in the market, as well as leveraging all the latest microprocessor, graphics, security and systems innovation they’re building into their next-generation products.

Three weeks ago at Citrix Synergy 2011, I had the distinct privilege and honor of publicly demonstrating the new XenClient 2 for the first time ever. Immediately after the keynote, we also posted a tech preview of the new release so that everyone could get their hands on it and try it out for themselves.

We’re just three weeks in, but the responses and comments so far on XenClient 2 have been both amazing and humbling. While there will always be new feature requests with any release, we’ve had a flood of feedback from the thousands of you who have taken XenClient 2 for a test drive and are encouraged to see how many of you are as excited as we are.

Based on your feedback, our primary focus in XenClient 2 was to (a) significantly broaden the hardware compatibility list, (b) deliver a more simplified user experience, and (c) enable larger scale production deployments of XenClient by enhancing our Synchronizer technology for centralized management in more complex enterprise scenarios.

Since the early feedback on XenClient 2 has been so overwhelmingly positive, I thought I’d take a minute to share some additional details on these enhancements and also provide some links to videos from Synergy for those who weren’t able to attend in person.

Let’s start with the new capabilities at a high level:

  • EXPANDED HARDWARE COMPATABILITY, NOW RUNABLE ON 45 MILLION SYSTEMS. The tech preview of XenClient 2 will  run on 3x as many systems as the first release by introducing support for Intel’s 2nd Generation Core vPro platform, adding support for additional PC vendors systems plus expanding coverage to workstation and non-vPro value enterprise class systems.  The new expanded hardware compatibility delivered in the XenClient 2 tech preview expands on XenClient 1.0’s ability  to run on 15 million systems
  • PRODUCTION SCALE SYNCHRONIZER that will enable customers to deploy Synchronizer for XenClient for centralized deployment and management of XenClient in larger and more complex environments with enhanced levels of scalability, more detailed environment reporting, optimized transfers and backups along with support for complex active directory environments.
  • SIMPLIFIED USER EXPERIENCE that will allow increased adoption of XenClient by non-technical users. A revamp of the Citrix Receiver for XenClient has produced a simpler, more responsible, and more intuitive user interface. Additional XenClient platform capabilities now allow a more native user experience with a set of features that allow XenClient to stay hidden during normal use of Windows virtual machines.

And for those who want additional details…

  • EXPANDED 3D GRAPHICS ARCHITECTURE now supports Intel HD 2000 and HD 3000 integrated graphics along with AMD FirePro and Radeon discrete graphics architectures. This not only expands hardware compatibility but together with Intel vPro directed I/O (VT-d) technology delivers a native 3D graphics experience.
  • NON-VPRO SYSTEM SUPPORT now enables a larger set of customers to evaluate and use XenClient on value enterprise systems. Users can now have a great 2D graphics experience when running XenClient on systems with Intel integrated graphics.
  • LATEST OPERATING SYSTEMS with support for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 32bit and 64bit along with initial support for Ubuntu Linux 11
  • IMPROVED AUDIO EXPERIENCE delivers integrated audio drivers for Windows 7 with improved fidelity and performance
  • LARGE VM MEMORY ALLOCATION supportallows the use of up to 8GB of memory for local virtual desktops running on XenClient. This allows Windows 7 to run with more applications, handle more open files, and support memory intensive workloads with ease.
  • USER PROFILE VIRTUALIZATION allows the separation of the user personality from the rest of the system using layering. It allows the ability to selectively backup and recover the user profile independent of the rest of the system.
  • OPTIMIZED BACKUPS to reduce the storage required for offering backup and recovery of virtual desktops. This is done by using smart disk block filtering to automatically remove unused disk blocks, Windows pagefiles, and other unnecessary data reducing the amount sent to the Synchronizer during backup operations.
  • AUTOMATIC CONNECTION THROTTLING protects users, Synchronizers, and your network from heavy loads. The Synchronizer will automatically throttle and queue XenClient systems downloading images and sending backups when the systems or network is under heavy load.
  • OPERATIONAL ENHANCEMENTS which allow administrators to more easily setup, configure, and maintain the Synchronizer for XenClient. Additionally a new device filtering capability allows for more targeted reporting on information about deployed XenClient systems.
  • SIMPLE OPERATIONS CONSOLE which allows admins to see at a glance the current configuration of their Synchronizer, along with simple configuration management from networking, to active directory connections, SSL certificates and more.
  • COMPLEX ACTIVE DIRECTORY environment support with the ability to run in environments with complex trust relationships between multiple-active directors. Login and target images and policies to users and groups across your whole organization.
  • PRECACHED VM DOWNLOADS to allow rapid deployment and recovery of virtual machine images from the Synchronizer even over slow network links. This is done by locally preloading the majority of the image from an optical disk or USB flash drive and only downloading the latest information over the wire from the Synchronizer.
  • AUTOMATED iSCSI DEPLOYMENT allows hands off deployment of XenClient to Lenovo desktop systems by hosting the XenClient installer system and automated answer files on a Lenovo Storage Array. 
  • REVAMPED USER INTERFACE makes it even easier to create, maintain, and run local virtual desktops on XenClient. Includes a new simplified view with both basic and advanced features, the ability to swap virtual desktop hotkeys, and greatly improved system responsiveness.
  • AUTOBOOT, AUTOSLEEP, AUTOSHUTDOWN allows XenClient power operations to be linked to the power state of a Windows virtual machine. This allows hiding XenClient behind the scenes

Finally, here are some links to XenClient 2 demos and sessions from Synergy:

If you haven’t taken a look at XenClient 2 yet, I strongly encourage you to give it a try today. We’re already hard at work on some of the next round of innovations, so it’s the perfect time to have your voice heard and tell us what you’d like to see. And if you know of any superstar system level developers looking to join a dynamic, growing team, let us know. I can’t reveal everything we’re working on here on the XenClient team, but we’re going to have a lot of fun here this next year.