Intel and Citrix have cooked up a plan that they say will deliver the consolidation and flexibility benefits of server virtualization -- to the desktop.
An agreement between the two companies will result in XenServer-friendly versions of the vPro on-chip virtualization platform that will be used for both client and server hardware configurations. The idea is to create a "two-tier virtualization hierarchy" that allows users to disconnect from the client server but still maintain a desktop image. The client would need to connect every once in a while for updates but would otherwise be free to travel wherever it is needed.
The system will benefit the enterprise by allowing a more mobile client experience capable of maintaining multiple virtual environments while still allowing for centralized management of the desktop image and operating system. In essence, it expands on the desktop virtualization concept by bringing virtual capabilities into the client, rather than tethering the device to the enterprise infrastructure in the traditional fashion.
Along with the new chip-level designs from Intel, Citrix will release a bare-metal version of its client hypervisor sometime next fall. The release will likely be timed with a similar effort from VMware, with the aim of providing both an online and offline client environment without sacrificing either performance or security.
But probably the most intriguing possibility is the notion that users could set up independent environments on their own client PCs-one for work and one for personal use. As envisioned under Citrix' Project Independence, that would shift the burden of buying and maintaining client hardware to the user, relieving the enterprise of the substantial capital and operational expense to today's PC infrastructure. Departing employees simply take their client with them, while new ones simply tap theirs into the enterprise network.
This is still highly speculative at this point, however, as no one is really sure how comfortable the front office will be with letting employees walk out the door with sensitive data on their own thin clients. Then again, desperate times call for desperate measures, and if the economy continues to wreak havoc on the bottom line, the need to lower costs may prove too hard to resist.