With the acquisition of RingCube announced recently, we’re fortunate to both welcome an amazing team to Citrix, and to be able to offer in early access in XenDesktop 5.5 to this “WAY cool” technology that achieves the goal of separating user changes from the base image shared by thousands of desktops.  RingCube’s VDI Edition changes the way to think about delivering personal virtual desktops – where all changes a user makes to their desktop will persist even when you update the desktops to a new master image.  Already there have been some insightful posts on this topic, but in this post I want to give some perspective on why RingCube is such a great fit for XenDesktop.

It’s all about the apps

If you look at the typical application estate in an enterprise, it fits the long tail model.

A relatively small number of applications are used (and licensed) for all employees, with many applications used by increasingly small subsets of the user population.  What does this mean for an efficient virtual desktop environment?  Outside of task workers with clearly defined roles, in the knowledge worker space, typically you find few employees with identical app sets.  Often apps are installed on a departmental basis (who knew you had 5 people in your sales org that have to view CAD models provided by one of your larger customers?).

To be successful in Desktop Virtualization you must be able to address the needs of a diverse set of employees, which means you must support the full estate of apps.  Today, in a bid to support the long tail of apps, many deployments are driven towards a 1-1 (or ‘dedicated’) desktop model.  Although all users start with a common image they rapidly diverge.  This is expensive and does not realize the management benefits expected of desktop virtualization.

The smarter, more efficient way to manage these desktops is to retain the ability to centrally manage and patch a common base image for a large number of desktops, with the long tail applications layered in seamlessly each time a desktop boots.  Separation enables better control and reduced costs.

This is ‘user installed’ apps?

Actually – no.  Allowing users to install their own applications, with administrative privileges, is a recipe for chaos – VDI just moves that chaos in your datacenter.  Not that anything prevents you from doing that – just give your users local admin rights on their desktop.  Instead, we think the value is firmly in the hands of the Administrators – deploy the long tail apps using your existing tools, such as System Center Configuration Manager, or if you must, by shadowing or ‘virtual sneaker net’.

That point about using SCCM, or indeed any other existing processes you have for deploying apps is worth expanding on.  As VDI deployments go deeper and broader in customer environments, encountering more long-tail apps, the ability to use existing tools and processes is one of the keys to gaining adoption and acceptance from the people that support departmental application needs on a daily basis.

Who needs Folder Redirection and Profile Management?

With a technology capable of layering in long-tail applications, you inherently get the ability to capture all the personalization of the desktop – documents, profile settings and OS settings.  Does this spell the end of Folder Redirection and Profile Management?  I’ll explore Profile Management in more detail, in a follow-up article, but in brief, no – those technologies still have their place.  If we look at Folder Redirection in particular, it still makes a huge amount of sense to redirect user documents onto a central location where they’re accessible for backup or archival.  This is so fundamental it makes a lot of sense in a physical PC estate – and is definitely recommended as part of a VDI deployment.

In Summary

RingCube enables you to deliver all the apps your VDI users need without resorting to delivering expensive, dedicated desktops.  Today, in the XenDesktop team, we welcome our friends from RingCube into the Citrix family and we can celebrate another milestone in delivering the best possible, personal, virtual desktop.