It seems that the Internet is abuzz with news about XenClient. The rumors are true, Citrix is killing off XenClient. As of October 1, 2015 (that's right, next week) the product will not be available for sale. Existing customers who use XenClient will have until the end of 2016 to migrate off the platform. Although I can't speak for Citrix on the reasons why they are discontinuing the product, one of the challenges with XenClient as a platform is that it is a "Type 1" hypervisor.
So here's where some light technical stuff comes in...
For those of you not familiar with the term, a Type 1 hypervisor is a hypervisor that you install on bare metal, like XenServer or VMware ESXi. The problem with that model is that the hypervisor needs to be constantly updated to support the latest hardware. So, if Dell releases a new laptop Citrix has to develop drivers for that laptop. This limits the hardware that a customer can use, and this means that XenClient lags behind on hardware support. The other problem with this model is that installation of XenClient is destructive, meaning that in order for someone to take advantage of XenClient, they have to erase the existing operating system (and all of their files) from the hard drive.
So how do you solve these limitations? You solve these limitations with what is known as Type 2 hypervisor. A Type 2 hypervisor is a hypervisor that runs on top of the existing operating system running on the device. Let's say that you have a MacBook running Mac OS X. With a type 2 hypervisor, you install it on your Mac as you would any other application and it runs along side all of your other applications on your Mac desktop. No need to erase anything. The other advantage to this model is that if a new MacBook model is released with new hardware, the Type 2 hypervisor will work because the underlying "host" operating system provides the hardware drivers.
Now that we got some of the technical stuff out of the way, what does this mean for you? We see two options:
- Migrate to a traditional virtual desktop hosted in the data center. This recommendation is for customers who have no "offline" use case. This option still allows customers to provide an IT-managed secure desktop to end users.
- Migrate to a "type 2" hypervisor. Mac users have DesktopPlayer for Mac. There's already an alternative for them. When Citrix decided to develop DesktopPlayer, they decided to "prove" the product on the Mac platform. The bad news is that Windows users will have to wait until DesktopPlayer for Windows to come out of Tech Preview. Hopefully Citrix is wrapping things up and move DesktopPlayer for Windows out of tech preview before October 1.
I know of several customers who really love XenClient and have had a lot of success using it within their organization. Let us know how we can help make your migration as smoothly as possible.