Intel, Citrix Team on Virtualization

Powered by the twin enterprise needs to cut costs during this recession and to improve security in the light of repeated data breaches, Intel and Citrix have teamed up to create a hypervisor that will let IT centrally manage and administer end user devices.

Citrix (NASDAQ: CTXS) will optimize its Xen hypervisor for Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) Core 2 desktop and Centrino 2 laptop chips using Intel’s vPro technology.

The collaboration between Citrix and Intel is expected to let PC manufacturers include “built-in” client-side virtualization with new desktop and laptop computing systems. Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) said it’s providing engineering support to aid in the design and testing of the new technology and plans to certify it for its computing platforms when its available for commercial release.

The new technology will go beyond the virtual desktop interface (VDI) currently being offered by VMware (NYSE: VMW) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

The first products with this new technology, being built under the Project Independence codename, are scheduled for delivery in the second half of the year, Raj Dhingra, group vice president and general manager of Citrix’s desktop delivery group, told

Enterprises will be able to keep one virtual image for the corporate desktop and patch and maintain only that image, cutting maintenance costs and improving security.

Security will be enhanced because IT can install the most up to date patches on the master image at the back end, also known as the golden image, and not have to wait for users to update their own patches. Many viruses, including the Downadup virus, which could be bigger than the Storm worm, spread because users fail to update their patches.

“Your desktop will always be up to date, with its management, patching, imaging, maintenance and security always done centrally,” Dhingra said. More importantly, enterprises can apply policies to the virtual machines so users will not be able to, for instance, download corporate data in virtual machines on their devices onto USB sticks.

USB devices are a constant headache for corporate security because, unless extra restrictions are employed, users can download sensitive information onto them or, conversely, upload malware either accidentally or deliberately onto corporate devices.

Next page: The desktop as a service

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The desktop as a service

Users will be able to access their corporate desktop from whichever device they find convenient, Dhingra said. “The desktop will be a service, it will no longer be a device,” he explained.

Intel’s vPro technology, now in its third generation, has advanced remote management features that let administrators log onto the computer and do maintenance even if it has been turned off.

“We’ll give the IT manager the large-scale management and control they want of the image and policies, and, because we’re executing the image locally on the client device, you won’t have performance degradation,” Gregory Bryant, vice president of Intel’s business client group, said during a conference call.

This new technology will provide a comprehensive flexible environment from the data center to the end user device, Juan Vega, senior product marketing strategist at Dell’s Flex Computing group, told “With this approach, end users can use whatever devices appropriate for their work or lifestyle without putting the burden on IT in terms of management, security, access control and so on, that comes up when there’s the need for distributed management of data.”

It is that very concern of the added burden of management that has led many IT departments to oppose the introduction of iPhones into the enterprise.

Dell is providing engineering talent and physical machines to Project Independence, Vega said. “It takes everything from the BIOS (basic input output system) we’re developing to the CPUs from Intel to the software Citrix is developing to pull this together.”

VDIs from VMware and other vendors make it easier to manage the virtual desktop end to end, but they rely on the device being always connected to the network. The new technology being developed under Project Independence will not require that always-on connection.

“You’ll be able to take the virtual image on your laptop when you travel, then synchronize it later with the corporate model when you’re back on the network,” Ian Pratt, vice president of advanced products at Citrix’s virtualization and management division and founder of the open source Xen Project, said in a conference call.

Updated to include the correct code name, Project Independence.

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