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Citrix Systems server back ends for desktop virtualization: XenServer

Unlike other virtualization providers, Citrix Systems' virtual desktop infrastructure supports multiple hypervisors. This section of our guide on server back ends for desktop virtualization covers XenServer and XenDesktop.

SERVER BACK ENDS FOR DESKTOP VIRTUALIZATION:

Back ends for desktop virtualization: A guide

VMware desktop virtualization server back ends

Microsoft server back ends for desktop virtualization

Citrix Systems server back ends for desktop virtualization
Like the other technologies, Citrix Systems Inc.'s virtual desktop infrastructure arrives as a combination of multiple products. Different from VMware, however, Citrix ''s desktop virtualization supports the use of multiple hypervisors for its underlying Citrix desktop virtualization engine. This section of our guide on server back ends for desktop virtualization covers XenServer and XenDesktop.

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At the core of its solution is Citrix XenServer, which is a Linux-based hypervisor with roots in the open source Xen project. On top of this hypervisor layer is the XenDesktop product. This product orchestrates the provisioning and distribution of desktops to users, as well as the management of desktops and desktop images. Citrix uses a specialized Citrix Provisioning Services that enable the streaming of a single desktop image to multiple virtual desktops. This linkage between base image and virtual desktops significantly reduces the size of virtual machines while enabling them to be managed and updated as a group.

Different from the other desktop virtualization infrastructure vendors, Citrix XenDesktop is not limited to running on top of Citrix XenServer alone. In addition to Citrix XenServer for desktop virtualization, Citrix supports the use of VMware vSphere and ESX and Microsoft Hyper-V as its underlying virtualization engine. This decoupling of desktop deployment from the hypervisor layer enables Citrix to easily incorporate with any existing virtual infrastructure.

Citrix's approach to deploying desktops is functionally similar to Microsoft's technology in that the Citrix virtual desktop agent –the Citrix Receiver– enables users to connect to virtual desktops and traditional presentation virtualization applications that are hosted atop Citrix XenApp. Installed to thin clients, thick clients and nontraditional devices such as smartphones and netbooks, Citrix's unified client enables users to connect to their resources irrespective of how they are hosted. Resources are transported over the network with Citrix's highly optimized ICA protocol, which efficiently transfers screen updates and mouse and keyboard commands through even latent and low-bandwidth connections.

A singular strength with the Citrix approach is in the company's long-standing focus on resource delivery. Citrix products are exceptionally mature and designed to scale to the needs of large organizations. Citrix also benefits from a strong position in the management of resources, providing features in its administrative toolsets that serve the needs of large and complex implementations.

Greg Shields is an independent author, instructor, Microsoft MVP and IT consultant based in Denver. He is a co-founder of Concentrated Technology LLC and has nearly 15 years of experience in IT architecture and enterprise administration. Shields specializes in Microsoft administration, systems management and monitoring, and virtualization. He is the author of several books, including Windows Server 2008: What's New/What's Changed, available from Sapien Press.


This was first published in December 2009

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