In the second part of our 6-part series on the benefits of Citrix XenClient — the local VM option of XenDesktop and its FlexCast delivery technology — we discussed how XenClient can be used to better manage PCs by turning them into virtual appliances. XenClient is a production ready client virtualization solution with thousands of desktops in deployment today. Our next installment in the series covers using XenClient to repurpose PCs as thin clients.  

According to Gartner’s 2012 CIO Survey, the highest IT priorities for CIOs will be reducing the cost of IT, while concurrently developing and managing flexible infrastructure. Organizations can utilize desktop virtualization to enable the move from managing devices to providing services for users—which is critical for IT in supporting branch and distributed offices.

Local Virtual Desktops for Remote Locations

While XenDesktop and networking products like Citrix NetScaler Branch Repeater reduce IT capital and operating costs and simplify branch office IT, Citrix offers another option for minimizing WAN traffic and data center costs: local virtual desktops powered by XenClient.

XenClient is a production-ready client virtualization solution with thousands of desktops in deployment today. XenClient is a part of XenDesktop and its FlexCast delivery technology—and it’s included at no additional cost when you purchase XenDesktop Enterprise or Platinum edition licenses. Local virtual desktops are ideal for branch offices and distributed workers around the world, as they can securely operate off-network and still leverage centralized management and synchronization.

Secure Central Management of Local Virtual Desktops
Local virtual desktops are enabled using XenClient Engine, a Type-1 client hypervisor, and managed centrally using XenClient Synchronizer.

Leveraging the Synchronizer remote office server capability of XenClient allows IT to manage all remote servers from a central server. You can gain many key advantages by using remote servers such as: intelligent caching of downloaded images; efficient use of bandwidth between remote offices; local storage and maintenance of backups; and fast recovery for remote clients. The remote server can be used in WAN or LAN setups.

All downloads from the central server are encrypted and compressed. As a user requests an image update – or a XenClient Engine update – they request it from the remote server to which they are registered, the remote server then checks with the central server to begin download of the update. Once the update is downloaded to the remote server it then caches it for the next user.

Network Factors

The network topology has a strong impact on the design of the Synchronizer installation. The following are the most important factors to consider:

  • Slow speed (WAN) connections to remote sites. The XenClient system will perform at its best if Synchronizer Remote Servers are installed at the end of slow speed links. This way, VMs are only downloaded once no matter how many clients there are at the remote site and no backups will be sent over the WAN connection. This results in greatly reduced utilization of the WAN link. If it is not feasible to install a XenClient Synchronizer Remote Server at every remote location, it is still beneficial to install a server remotely to service a number of sites, as this will reduce the load on the outgoing WAN connection from the central data center.
  • Multiple high speed segments. If the network has multiple separate high speed LAN segments then it makes sense to install a Synchronizer Remote Server on each segment to maximize the number of clients that can be serviced concurrently and minimize the impact on the backbone network. For example, if there is a 10Gb backbone in the central data center and a series of 1Gb LAN segments distributed throughout the organization with small data centers on each segment connected to the backbone, then a good implementation strategy would be to install Remote Servers in each satellite data center—all connected to the 10Gb backbone and have the central server in the main data center. This will result in data being distributed to the Remote Servers very quickly and from there delivered in parallel to all clients on the various slower-speed networks.

Virtual desktops are a key tool for simplifying remotely deployed PC infrastructure in order to streamline rapid expansion, support branch offices and attract and retain top talent—wherever they are located.  By deploying a combination of server-hosted virtual desktops powered by Citrix XenDesktop and local virtual desktops powered by Citrix XenClient, IT can react quickly to changes, reduce IT budgets and improve user satisfaction.

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