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PCs vs. Citrix XenDesktop

Val King
Posted by Val King on Mar 29, 2016 9:30:00 AM

If you’re reading this, odds are you’re currently managing a desktop PC environment but have or are considering adopting a virtual desktop infrastructure such as Citrix XenDesktop. Or perhaps you’re trying to decide between XenApp and XenDesktop.

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XenDesktop is Citrix’s brand name for the software that lets you create virtual desktops.  The generic term for this is VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure/Interface). This technology allows end users to access and run Microsoft Windows desktops that are actually installed on servers in a datacenter instead of on the hardware/keyboard/mouse the end users are sitting in front of.

The benefit?

f the computer on your desk is old, it doesn’t matter — the XenDesktop PC is running at the speed of the servers, not the crusty box you are sitting in front of.

Don’t have a PC?  Have a tablet, smartphone, or Mac?  No problem.  Download the Citrix Receiver and you can access your XenDesktop from any device, anywhere you have Internet access.

Citrix XenDesktop differs from Citrix’s original flagship product, XenApp, in that XenApp delivers applications instead of full Windows 7/8/10 desktops to all users in a standard format, with little or no OS differentiation at the endpoints, whereas XenDesktop allows users to customize their OS experience.  XenApp can deliver a desktop-like experience with a Windows 2008R2 server OS or newer edition.

What is the state of your current end-user hardware?

If you are still staring at a building full of end-of-life Windows XP computers (Microsoft quit supporting them in 2014 with some expensive exceptions), this section is for you.

The thought of buying all new computers ($600 to $1,200 each on average) for every user with a crusty machine can seem daunting.  However, that is just the initiation fee; the bigger cost of managing PCs is the cost that is not as easy to spot. Think maintenance and support.

Gartner will tell you that the average PC costs $2,400+ a year to support.  Multiply that by the cost of all of the PCs in your environment and you might want to find a chair.

The first reaction is “No way it costs that much to support a PC.  I have a PC at home and I don’t spend anywhere near that amount to support it.”

While your mileage may vary, after 20 years in the business, we can assure you that that number is fairly accurate.  Someone has to walk around and do all of the updates and apply all of the patches. Someone has to support your users who can’t print, can’t send an email, can find the file they swear they saved, can't recover the file they need for that presentation in an hour, can't back up their data so they don’t lose the file next time, can't fix their monitor, can't replace their keyboard, can't fix the mouse, etc.  If you are more sophisticated, you buy tools so that your IT guy does not have to physically walk around the office, but tools cost money, too.  So does learning them in some cases.  It all adds up.

If your PCs are crusty, virtual desktops can give you new-PC speed without replacing the desktop.  As long as it will turn on and can attach to the network, you are in good shape.

If, in an act of cost savings or desire to hug a tree, you decided to let your end users bring their own computer devices (BYoD) to work, but you want them to use your applications, XenDesktop has you covered.  Simply install Citrix Receiver on their endpoint (Apple, Android or otherwise) and they are ready to go.

Who are Your Users?

As you consider switching to a virtual desktop architecture, you’ll want to evaluate your users. What kind of end users do you have? What kind of work are they doing?  Understanding your potential virtual desktop users and their needs will help you understand whether Citrix XenDesktop is right for your environment. Among the categories of users you might have are kiosk users, task workers (call center, assembly line, receptionist), knowledge workers (finance, sales reps, executives), and power users (coders, graphic developers, audio/visual producers).

It’s important to evaluate the number of each of these types of users in your organization. An environment heavy in task workers, for example, will most likely find great benefit in a XenDesktop solution and will need to structure their environment in a way particular to the workflow needs of those types of employees. On the other hand, an organization heavy in power users will need to think differently about its IT infrastructure.

Impact on Users

You’ll also certainly give serious consideration to your users’ response to the possibility of new desktop operating infrastructure. Will they anticipate a loss of autonomy and control? Will they be worried about files getting lost or corrupted in “the cloud?” Will they worry about computing processes getting bogged down in network traffic, resulting in lost productivity?

Properly architected and managed, a well-planned XenDesktop environment will far exceed your users’ expectations. They’ll discover that, because XenDesktop delivers each user his or her own private CPU, GPU, memory, etc., XenDesktop allows them to personalize their operating system as much as they’d like — just like a standard PC.

A well-constructed and well-maintained Citrix XenDesktop environment ensures that all users have customized desktops that provide them access to not only the right software, but also to the right OS to maximize use of that software.  It ensures that the software is always up to date and runs smoothly and efficiently on top-notch servers. It means centralized file storage and access to those files from anywhere. With XenDesktop, users can create a customized desktop and experience that desktop environment across multiple platforms, including tablets, smartphones and laptops.

So the experience of XenDesktop customization is similar to what one would experience on a PC and users should feel no loss when comparing the two. In fact, users are generally grateful to be able to enjoy a consistent experience across devices.  The same “desktop” they are using at the office can follow them and appear on their home PC or tablet to continue work at home.  The desktop looks exactly the same way they are used to seeing it at work.

And because the desktop environment is redundant, an endpoint experience gone haywire can be easily restored from the central server or the user can login from a different device to keep working.

Impact on IT

From an IT perspective, the benefits of a Citrix XenDesktop infrastructure are easy to measure from both hardware and management viewpoints.

Hardware costs are much more easily managed, because instead of buying and maintaining a large of number of PCs that are scattered hither and yon, you’ll acquire a single, premium and centralized system that, at a lower cost, replaces a myriad of individual units in various states of repair.  You can be much more efficient about your storage needs, too,

From a management perspective, XenDesktop enables streamlined deployment and lifecycle management, which can help you reduce application and desktop management costs by as much as 90 percent. Rather than requiring a lengthy onsite service call, a busted OS can simply be replaced with a fresh copy of the user’s desktop.  Provisioning in this manner takes seconds.

The virtual desktop infrastructure, XenDesktop in this case, monitors the use of system resources and makes desktop assignments based on rules set up by the IT department. Load balancing is achieved by the migration of active desktops among servers if necessary to make sure each user is getting the optimal PC experience.

What system makes the most sense for your business? Whitehat Virtual Technologies can help you figure this out. Email or call us (888.406.8719) today and let’s get started reducing your IT costs, increasing productivity, and improving your end-user experience.

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Topics: Citrix, Tools and Technology, Research and Strategy, Xendesktop, Virtual Desktop (VDI)

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