Review: Citrix XenDesktop 7 Simplifies VDI
Students often need to be able to access specific applications and environments for each class. An ideal way to provide access from any device — whether it's a notebook, tablet or thin client — is through remote access to a standardized virtual desktop.
Using Citrix XenDesktop 7, administrators can make an operating system and all necessary applications available to any user on virtually any platform. While an existing desktop can still be used, XenDesktop 7 (in conjunction with XenServer) allows a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to be built with the additional functionality of XenApp for distributing applications folded into XenDesktop 7. That means an administrator can work with a professor to develop a template for a class, then deploy images for each student within a matter of minutes.
I tested XenDesktop 7 with an older PC, a new PC and an Android tablet, and was able to access files, Microsoft Office applications, email and VoIP apps seamlessly on each, with little to no difference to confuse end users.
Users can enjoy access to any OS and applications they're accustomed to on any platform, over virtually any type of connection. The self-service app store allows users to add applications and lets admins keep track of licenses and help users get what they need while maintaining auditing and control standards.
Why It Works for IT
XenDesktop's Citrix Studio and Director allow for easy creation and management of desktops for groups of users by location, functionality or department; performance monitoring; and self-service provisioning.
While many administrators will use XenServer with XenDesktop, it is not required. Virtual desktops also can be hosted on a VMware or Windows Server (Hyper-V) system. Deploying XenServer and XenDesktop is all wizard-based,
and much less difficult than with previous versions, allowing even inexperienced administrators to easily set up the server, provision virtual desktops and enable access to the desktop and applications for a variety of users on different platforms without a lot of manual steps for each system.
The Citrix Unified Storefront allows users to request virtual desktops and all necessary apps, removing the need for an admin to set up every user on each of his or her devices. XenDesktop 7 offers substantial improvements over previous versions, integrating functionality from a previously separate application, XenApp, while offering a reliable and cost-effective way to provide mobile users what they expect. New features include HDX Mobile functionality, which enables Windows apps to be accessed with the multitouch gestures and finger swipes used on tablets and smartphones. Native Windows menus are translated into pull-downs on mobile services. HDX deep compression keeps applications performing well, even over wireless connections, and XenDesktop's Clientless Receiver can deliver the remote user experience to a browser if the standard client cannot be installed.
Many users may need help getting the Clientless Receiver set up for each device they'll use to access the virtual desktop, although that happens only once.
During testing, there were several updates to the receivers for our test devices in the space of less than four weeks. Ensuring the receivers are updated correctly may require a mobile device management solution or better user education.