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Cisco announces virtual desktops for video collaboration

Cisco has announced two new virtual desktop devices, more efficient virtualisation software and more affordable videoconferencing endpoints, building on its line of video collaboration tools and capabilities for companies.

Both of the new small desktop devices will support VMware View 4.5 and Citrix XenDesktop and are expected to be available in March 2011. Each will be priced below $500, including a USB keyboard, mouse and client license.

In addition, Cisco said its previously-announced Cius tablet computer will support VMware View, Citrix Receiver and Wyse Pocket Cloud virtualisation software and will interact with a Windows desktop in a data centre. The Cius is also due out in March.

Desktop virtualisation and thin client computers have been around for years and give IT shops greater control over data and security by centralising computing functions, data and applications on data centre servers instead of allowing end users to do so with desktops or mobile devices.

Cisco officials said that the growing use of video and videoconferencing in business collaboration required the vendor to offer virtualisation products under a new virtualisation architecture (called VXI, for Virtualisation Experience Infrastructure) that effectively and more efficiently stores data and applications on data centre servers to be called up to virtual desktops and mobile devices.

“Voice and video doesn't [traditionally] work well if running [over virtualization] in the data center,” Cisco senior vice president of voice technology Barry O'Sullivan said. “We believe we've solved this with VXI.”

One of the new virtual desktop devices is a standalone tower called the VXC 2200 that is less than 5 inches high. Cisco showed in one illustration that it can be placed next to a desk phone and a telepresence monitor, O'Sullivan said. The VXC 2200 has four USB ports and two video ports.

The other is an even smaller device called the VXC 2100. It fits on the back of a Cisco IP phone, which Cisco showed can be set up to work with a traditional desktop monitor and keyboard. It can be connected to two monitors and has four USB ports.

Each has a small embedded processor for decoding virtualization protocols, meaning that companies can keep data on data center servers, instead of a desktop or mobile computer, O'Sullivan said. Both are powered by Power over Ethernet.

Cisco introduced the virtualisation client devices and the VXI architecture for thin clients from Wyse and others to support a range of collaboration technologies, including videoconferencing. Cisco designed the VXI to improve the density of virtual desktops on a server by 60%, he said.

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