Sentillion Eyes Desktop, VPN Virtualization

The company looks to use virtualization technology to give businesses an easier and more cost-effective alternative to such traditional methods as VPNs and Web portals.

A company that specializes in bringing remote access capabilities to the health care industry is looking to use virtualization technology to give businesses an easier and more cost-effective alternative to such traditional methods as VPNs and Web portals.

Sentillion on June 26 is rolling out vThere, a product that essentially virtualizes the desktop image and VPN connection for remote users. The result is a desktop environment that is secure and isolated from the physical PC its running on, and that gives remote users the same access to applications theyd have if they were in the building.

"Were able to replicate the complete user experience," said Robert Seliger, CEO of Sentillion, in Andover, Mass. "When you log on to vThere, youre logging in to another desktop."

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Seliger said he expects vThere will be attractive to businesses outside the health care field, enabling the company to expand its reach.

Virtualization has become commonplace with data center servers, but businesses have more recently looked at it for the desktop. Several vendors are beginning to offer initial solutions using virtualization technology, which enables users to run multiple operating environments on a single piece of physical hardware.

IBM last year unveiled its Virtual Hosted Client Infrastructure, in which it is using VMware virtualization technology on back-end blade servers to host desktop environments for end users. More recently, VMware, of Palo Alto, Calif., in April launched the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Alliance, a group dedicated to promoting virtual desktops hosted on back-end servers.

Demands pushing virtualization for desktop environments include easier manageability for IT staffs and greater security at a time when compliance issues are pushing to the forefront.

Those have been concerns of Kettering Medical Center, a health care network in the Dayton, Ohio, area that includes 51 facilities, including four hospitals and a college, and about 12,000 network users. Users include 7,500 employees and 1,200 physicians and clinicians. Many of them work in their own offices, which has made secure and reliable remote access a priority, said Bob Burritt, networking and technology manager for the heath care system, based in Kettering, Ohio.

"Its been a big thorn in our side, because weve had to provide a number of different ways to provide remote access," Burritt said.

One of those ways has been through a traditional VPN client and a small Citrix environment. Overall, challenges ranged from the cost of maintaining and supporting those systems to problems with certain applications running on users PCs that interfere with the VPN. Kettering is testing Sentillions vThere technology with the hope it will clear up some of those issues.

"Now we can have a virtual workstation and virtual image, like we offer on the network, but in [the doctors] own office," he said. "Also, this [virtualized environment] is shielded from the rest of the system, and all the connectivity is behind the scenes."

Currently, IT administrators are able to put users desktop images onto CDs, which the users can then use to download the images into their computers. Later this year, Sentillion will enable users to download their images from a Web browser. Users can access the vThere environment through a log-in that supports RSA SecurID authentication.

They then have access to the applications on the businesss network. The technicians can put policies into the users images to control what the users have access to and what they can do within the vThere environment, and through the technology the technicians can remotely deal with problems that arise.

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