VMware Launches First Free, Open-Source Virtual Desktop Client

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-02-03

VMware Launches First Free, Open-Source Virtual Desktop Client

VMware, which would dearly love to take over as many of the world's desktop screens as it can, on Feb. 3 unveiled a freely downloadable virtual desktop client for enterprises that allows users to access and use their company machines remotely from any mobile device.

The Linux-based VMware View Open Client enables IT managers to host all of their companies' user desktops in the data center with the ability to provision computing power and storage space as needed.

This release has been in the works for nearly a year and was made in response to pressure from a growing number of Linux distributions -- including Red Hat, Ubuntu, CentOS and others -- that include virtualization as a standard feature.

Thin clients are one kind of device that can be used to connect to a company's VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure). Cell phones, laptops, notebooks and other handheld devices also can connect to the virtual desktop using this new client.

VMware is providing VMware View Open Client to its enterprise partners, so they can use the open source code to optimize their own personalized virtual desktops for users.

Read an assessment of VMware View Open Client
by eWEEK Labs' Cameron Sturdevant.

A major reason for using an open-source model is that the View Open Client can be more easily optimized to run with numerous operating systems that thin clients use, such as Windows CE, Windows XP Embedded, Linux, Solaris and BSD, VMware Senior Director of Desktop Virtualization Jerry Chen told eWEEK.

"Quite frankly, we have no idea what the future devices could look like," Chen said. "We want to enable our mobile ecosystem to take the software, to customize it for their device, innovate on their timetable, yet have the confidence that it's going to work with our software and take advantage of our features, such as security and encryption."

VMware is in the same market with Citrix, which makes the XenDesktop; Wyse, a long-established thin-client producer; Sun Microsystems, with its SunRay thin-client workstations; Dell, which came out last October with its first thin-client desktop; Hewlett-Packard; and nComputing.

IT researcher Gartner has projected that about 50 million user licenses for hosted virtual desktops will be purchased in the next four years, and that the thin-client terminal will account for about 40 percent of user devices for hosted virtual desktop deployment.

"As this market continues to emerge, new technology must more adequately address user experience, and provide the ability to scale beyond a few hundred users," analyst Michael Rose of researcher IDC told eWEEK. "An effective desktop must merge scalability, life cycle management and superior user experience in order to be broadly applicable in the enterprise."

Virtual Desktops Enable Substantial Capital Savings

Virtual Desktops Enable Substantial Capital Savings

Industry estimates say that managing a typical end-user enterprise desktop computer can now cost more than $5,000 a year per employee. In contrast, the cost for licensing virtual desktops running in a central data center can begin as low as $75 per concurrent user per year.

In the current recessionary climate, it is easy to see that this can make a major difference on a company's bottom line.

Virtual desktop and thin clients are also attractive for their green IT benefits. These use far less electrical draw-in some cases nearly half as much-as a typical desktop machine, since they don't utilize their own hard drive.

Latency between mouse movement and action on the screen-which often can be several seconds in length-has long been the biggest user issue for server-based workstations. However, all the vendors mentioned above continue to improve their systems regularly to make them act more like regular client-based PCs.

The VMware View Open Client is part of VMware's vClient Initiative to deliver universal clients-desktops that "follow users to any endpoint while providing a personalized experience that is secure, cost-effective and easy for IT to manage," the company said.

The VMware View Open Client is available under the GNU Lesser General Public License Version 2.1 (LGPL v 2.1). To download it free of charge, go here.

Editor's note: This story was updated to fix the link to the VMware View Open Client software.

Rocket Fuel