Windows 7's Virtual Impact

by Amy Newman

Virtually Speaking: With IT budgets still in the dumper, the virtual desktop may give Windows 7 a sizable boost. VMware Workstation 7 is being positioned accordingly.

When an operating system rolls out, it's always interesting to watch the new options for hardware and software roll out. Windows 7 has been no exception to this in the week since its launch.

On Tuesday, VMware announced the release of Workstation 7. Among the big feature enhancements is a Windows 7 update.

Although VMware describes Workstation as a desktop virtualization product, it is not desktop virtualization, as the term is more commonly used nowadays. In client-side virtualization, to be more specific, the desktop is akin to a thin-client: All of the users apps, data and settings are stored on the server, enabling him or her to connect via any device. For that, VMware has VMware View, which includes its VDI. VMware View is aimed at the general end-user population.

Workstation on the other hand is aimed more squarely at developers and sys admins. True to its name, it runs on the desktop, but it is more like VMware Server of yesteryear, enabling the user to run Windows 7, XP and Vista from a single desktop PC or a laptop.

Michael Paiko, senior product marketing manager for desktop clients at VMware, told InternetNews.com that there are four key targets: developers writing apps, quality assurance and testers who test those apps, technical sales professionals, and training classes.

In the case of the first two, compatibility with the cutting-edge is key, and thus Windows 7 compatibility is important for Workstation to remain a viable option.

Windows 7 may also have a tremendous impact on how enterprises perceive desktop virtualization. In a recent article on Computerworld, VMware's Bogomil Balkansky, vice president of product marketing, voiced his theory that it may in fact be the tipping point to desktop virtualization acceptance and adoption. For the most part, desktop virtualization (especially where everything resides on the server) has been more talked about than implemented. This is partly because the low-hanging fruit that come with server virtualization are not found on the desktop virtualization tree. In fact, oftentimes, client-side virtualization carries its own set of expenses.

Windows 7, however, is a significant upgrade that is not without its own costs, many of which have nothing to do with the OS itself. For enterprises that opted to skip Vista, it is a migration that may well involve hardware upgrades.

It would be foolhardy to roll out Windows 7 without testing it first, and most enterprises are no doubt aware of this. VMware Workstation's Windows 7 support makes this possible, but perhaps even more useful is the flip-side — an across-the-board migration or upgrade isn't necessary. Enterprises can cherry-pick what to upgrade, and provide developers, admins and anyone else who would benefit with multiple environments on their desktops. It's a win all around.

Broadening the scope a bit, the "other" type of desktop virtualization may benefit from Windows 7 as well. A great many enterprises are still running XP. A significant segment of them are running XP on hardware not powerful enough for Windows 7. Both sides of this equation will need to be updated within the next few years. Moving to a client-side model will save money and time, from the outset.

The only question is, will it be a pure Microsoft model, or one in which VMware or an another vendor (Red Hat, perhaps) plays a role?

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is the coauthor of Practical virtualization Solutions.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Oct 28th 2009
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