Defence win backs Citrix desktop virtualisation security claims

Citrix has announced that it will join Microsoft to drive a major transformation of desktop environments within the Department of Defence

Thin-client and virtualisation specialist vendor Citrix Systems has been talking about the virtualisation of the desktop for years, but an A-grade customer win would seem to back up the company’s recent claims that ever-better security is bringing desktop virtualisation into the mainstream even within the most security-conscious environments.

Supporting primary contractor Thales and Raytheon Trusted Computer Solutions, Citrix has announced that it will join Microsoft to drive a major transformation of desktop environments within the Department of Defence, which is implementing a Next Generation Desktop (NGD) based on Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp and will initially implement a 500-desktop trial before eventually extending it to 100,000 users.

That’s a lot of virtual desktop, and it will suit a uniquely Defence problem: sparing employees the bother of having multiple computers on their desk for accessing information systems of different security clearances. Defence has wrestled with this issue for years, and came out as an early advocate of virtual-desktop replacements once security issues could be resolved.

Announcement of the deal is a huge vote of confidence in the security of the new model, which Citrix’s recent Security Index Whitepaper (PDF) found is rapidly growing in acceptance amongst corporate decision-makers. The survey of 1100 such IT executives found 92 percent of respondents expect to be using virtual desktops by 2013, many following Defence’s lead and using the technology for its perceived security benefits.

With fully one-third of respondents already using desktop virtualisation, figures suggest the trend has already taken off – in many cases, because it is seen as a way of providing secure access to corporate systems from mobile devices that have recently struggled in the security stakes. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they were adopting desktop virtualisation because it would reduce their IT or business costs, while over 55 percent wanted to better support their mobile workforce, 52 percent singled out secure access from user devices as a goal, and 51 percent said they wanted to use virtual desktops to improve security.

Features of desktop virtualisation, such as the ability to easily patch applications on mobile devices or isolate a compromised application, figured highly in respondents’ reasons for considering desktop virtualisation. All provide new raisons d’etre for a technology that has been around for many years but has struggled to gain traction within as big or mission-critical an environment as Defence; with that big-name customer under its belt, Citrix’s vision of the secure virtual desktop could be well on its way to ubiquity.

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Tags Microsoftvirtualisationdepartment of defenceCitrix SystemsThales and Raytheon Trusted Computer Solutions

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