Citrix treads lightly with bare-metal hypervisor

The first version will help IT professionals get comfortable with the product and it will be used in small pilots

Citrix Systems' XenClient, its bare-metal hypervisor for desktop virtualization, is a work in progress and will primarily help IT professionals get comfortable with the product, according to company officials.

"To be fair, it is a 1.0 product. We expect people to put it through its paces, and get familiar with it and do it in relatively small pilots," said Calvin Hsu, director, product marketing at Citrix during an interview at its Synergy user conference. The company released XenClient at the end of last month.

Bare-metal hypervisors run directly on hardware. Operating systems can run on top of these hypervisors in separate virtual machines. Other hypervisor products like VMware's Player and Parallels' Desktop need an underlying operating system to work.

Bare-metal hypervisor technology holds the promise of allowing desktop virtualization to work without a network connection, letting the IT department issue laptops that come, for example, with one operating system for corporate use and one for personal use.

There are also security implications. An operating system running on a XenClient-equipped laptop can be remotely locked, according to Hsu. For example, if a laptop is stolen, it can be killed the next time it connects to a network, he said.

These possibilities get IT executives worked up, and Citrix sometimes has to rein them in, suggesting they instead concentrate on pilots and getting them comfortable with the product, according to Hsu.

Some important features are in the product, but are still under development and are thus labeled "experimental." One such feature set relates to how images of the operation systems running on top of the hypervisor are to be managed, and here Citrix needs feedback from users, Hsu said.

In addition, the current version only works on laptops with processors and graphic chipsets from Intel. However, that will change. At Synergy Citrix showed XenClient running on a PC with graphics from Nvidia.

But the Nvidia graphics performance wasn't the most impressive demonstration. In another demo Citrix showed how it could run two separate operating systems on two displays sitting next to each other and still be able to move the mouse cursor from one display to the other and make it seem like it was one system. End-users will never appreciate how hard that was to accomplish, but they don't have to, according to Hsu.

When PCs with graphics from Nvidia will be added to the hardware compatibility list and multi-monitor support make it into the real product remains to be seen. Today, Citrix isn't saying anything.

At Synergy, Citrix and McAfee -- which is being acquired by Intel -- announced that they are working on integrating security directly into the XenClient hypervisor.

Citrix also announced that Lenovo will offer enterprises the option of getting its Think products, including ThinkCentre M series desktops and ThinkPad X and T series laptops, with XenClient pre-installed. They will start shipping in the fourth quarter. Previously, HP and Dell have announced plans to do the same.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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