Desktop Virtualization Dominance, the VMware Way

by Amy Newman

Virtually Speaking: With an acquisition, a maintenance release and a significant upgrade planned for later this year, VMware is gunning full throttle for the desktop virtualization market. But it's not the only vendor with desktop virtualization in its cross-hairs.

More on desktop virtualization

The concept behind a virtual desktop infrastructure is far from new, yet from the growing buzz it seems to be catching on — with the vendors at least.

On Monday, VMware (NASDAQ: VMW) released an update to VMWare View, its desktop virtualization software. Version 4.0.1 is being labeled a maintenance release.

The release has three main enhancements as well as myriad minor bug fixes:

Localized versions of the desktop virtualization software are now available in Japanese, French, German and simplified Chinese for the View Client and online help for View Client, as well as the View Manager Administration Guide, View Manager Release Notes, Getting Started with VMware View document, View Upgrade Guide and View Architecture Planning Guide.

Support has also been added for VirtualCenter 2.5 Update 6 and ESX 3.5 Update 5.

PCoIP now supports virtual printing, which allows end users to use local or network printers from a View desktop without requiring additional print drivers be installed in the View desktop; single sign-on support for third-party providers such as Sentillion and Imprivata; and the View Client supports international keyboards when using PCoIP.

This release follows last week's hint of what's coming in version 4.5, which is due out later this year. VMware outlined its plans for the next version of VMware View. Unlike Monday's release, version 4.5 will be more than a point release. VMware hopes it will be seen as a step toward its strategy of a "Virtual Data center OS." Specifically, version 4.5 will enable users to package desktop and server applications in ThinApp virtual machines, thus allowing applications to run independent of Windows or other operating systems. Ultimately, this will reduce application conflicts.

Tuesday's news had that end in mind: VMware announced plans to acquire RTO Software. The two companies have been working together for several months now, with RTO Software providing the the Virtual Profile technology behind VMware View.

RTO's technology seamlessly virtualizes, caches and synchronizes a desktop user's roaming profile, such that when a user logs on, instead of delivering the entire user profile in one shot (and thus forcing the user to wait for the entire file to download), Virtual Profiles performs a "just-in-time" delivery as data is needed.

With RTO Software as part of VMware, the technology will be key part of VMware's desktop strategy. As VMware's CTO blog notes:

Virtual Profiles, in tandem with View Composer and ThinApp, represents the next step on the journey towards VMware's vision of the composite desktop, where end-users will benefit from a consistent user experience while IT organizations will realize reduced infrastructure costs and lower desktop management costs. The RTO Virtual Profile technology is targeted for integration with VMware View in mid 2010.

VMware Not the Only Desktop Virtualization Player

VMware's strategy for the desktop, while perhaps the most ambitious, is far from the only one out there. RES Software, for example, last week released a new version of its desktop virtualization product. Headquartered in the Netherlands, the company "considers themselves the leader in user workspace management," Jim Kirby RES vice president of the Americas, told ServerWatch.

By "workspace" he means all devices a user touches to do his or her job. RES' solutions transform the devices into a single workspace that is independent of the operating system, applications and hardware.

RES PowerFuse 2010 enables organizations operating in Citrix, Microsoft and VMware environments to separate the desktop from the operating system and automate the management, creation and dynamic composition of user workspaces, while also providing context-aware, secure and centrally managed delivery for applications, data, printing and personal user settings, regardless of location.

Because PowerFuse views the user's environment as a workspace, information is synchronized and made available online and offline. Every piece of information on the network can be automatically synched to a mobile device and made available to the appropriate users, RES Product Manager Bob De Kousemaeker told ServerWatch.

RES PowerFuse does this using live data and a step-by-step approach driven by a suite of modeling tools that can be used to analyze, design and test big projects (e.g., large-scale migrations or desktop virtualization), prior to implementation.

While RES PowerFuse 2010 can function as a stand-alone product, it also integrates and collaborate with VMware View, Citrix Xen Desktop, and Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager Virtual PC, Kirby said. It is also designed to work with all databases and Microsoft Azure, which Kirby describes as "basically a database for the cloud."

Desktop virtualization has long been a tricky landscape. With this latest generation of products providing a more secure and more easily managed environment that is less expensive in the long run, many companies will likely stand up and take notice. The improved end-user experience sure to come with it is not to be ignored either, as it will likely result in an easier sell and smoother adoption process.

The question remains, however, over which desktop virtualization environment will win out.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch and Enterprise IT Planet. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, published by Pearson in October 2009.

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This article was originally published on Thursday Feb 25th 2010
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