Citrix previews XenDesktop 5.0, release planned for Q4 2010

Earlier this week, Citrix announced the new features that will be part of XenDesktop 5.0, the company’s virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platform.

Besides the obvious presence of XenClient 1.0, officially released last month and already included in XenDesktop 4 Feature Pack 2, the most relevant new component of the platform is called Desktop Director, an additional web-based console for operations management.

The tool provides statistics about the deployed applications instances and virtual desktops, the software inventory usage and even basic information about the health of underlying infrastructure.
If an end-user reports a problem, Desktop Director can be used to analyze the desktop environment and recognize if there’s any performance bottleneck or any missing software component (like the Flash plug-in for internet browsers). From the new console, operators can also launch a Remote Assistance session on Windows desktops and directly solve misconfiguration errors.
One of the most useful capabilities anyway, is the one that allows operators to recognize unused virtual desktops and terminate them in different ways (put them in maintenance mode, powering them off, logging-out inactive users, etc.), freeing up resources inside the virtual data center.

Citrix published a video tour of Desktop Director here.

The second new piece of XenDesktop 5 is called Desktop Studio, an authoring solution to build, test and update desktop images.
Thanks to this component,  the installation and configuration of a new VDI has been dramatically reduced: Citrix reports that a corporation can start deploying new virtual desktops within 10 minutes.

Citrix published a video tour of Desktop Studio here.

The third most significant change in XenDesktop 5 is a revamped Citrix Received, the platform’s client, which now acts as a unified access portal for applications stored inside virtual desktops, terminal server silos, private and public Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) clouds.
The new Receiver uses a new single-sign on (SSO) technology, OpenCloud Access, to allow a corporate user to access on-premises and cloud-based applications, but Citrix didn’t detail yet how the identity management works and what kind of limitations it has.
Citrix has also improved the Receiver performance for audio/video traffic through a new version of the HDX technology, which now supports 32bit color depth and a new dynamic color compression algorithm.

Citrix’s strategy is to place receiver on every device that a corporation may decide to adopt, without betting on any specific one. So it’s expected that the new capabilities will be available for Windows and Windows Phone, Mac OS and iOS, Android, BlackBerry OS platforms as well as the upcoming new ones like the HP/Palm WebOS, the Google Chrome OS or the Cisco Cius OS.

In its new incarnation, the Receiver replaces the previous Citrix attempt to offer self-service provisioning for enterprise applications: Dazzle, a clone of Apple iTunes.
The new Receiver makes Dazzle unnecessary, and allows Citrix to better compete against the recently announced Project Horizon, that VMware plans to include in its VDI platform View next year. 

XenDesktop 5 will be generally available later this quarter. Suggested pricing will start at $95 per user or device for the VDI-only edition.
While waiting for the GA, interested customers can already take a free, 60-minutes training course: Citrix XenDesktop Overview, updated to discuss the features of the upcoming 5.0 release.