VMware Acquisition Looks to Strengthen Desktop Virtualization

The virtualization giant is acquiring Thinstall, which specializes in application virtualization.

VMware is staring off 2008 by focusing on desktop virtualization.

On Jan. 15, the Palo Alto, Calif., company announced that it would acquire Thinstall, a privately held company that specializes in application virtualization technology for PCs. The deal is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of this year.

The acquisition should help VMware, which is considered the leading provider of x86 virtualization technology for servers in the data center, strengthen its portfolio of products for desktop virtualization, which includes its ACE product for individual machines and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, which allows an IT department to create a virtual desktop infrastructure within a data center.

While the success of VMware and the acquisition of XenSource by Citrix in 2007 shows that the market for server virtualization is growing, desktop virtualization is seen as the next logical step in this evolution.

"The addition of Thinstall to our desktop virtualization portfolio will help us to better deliver cost-effective and more flexible tools for quickly and securely provisioning desktops," said Jeff Jennings, vice president of desktop products and solutions at VMware, in a statement.

A Garter report released last year showed that the number of virtual machines will increase from 540,000 in 2006 to four million in 2009. Desktop virtualization, the report claims, has the potential to outstrip server virtualization, especially when companies look for ways to better manage IT infrastructure.

Natalie Lambert, an analyst with Forrester Research, believes that the Thinstall acquisition will help VMware deliver a better range of services for virtualized desktop infrastructures from patch management to streaming applications from the data center to the client.

Lambert also believes that while the industry is moving toward a model where clients are controlled and managed from the data center, it is doubtful the industry will shift to this model in 2008. However, the VMware acquisition does help validate the technology.

"It's an entire paradigm shift," Lambert said. "There are significant benefits in manageability and security, but it's a mindshift and its going to take some time for these technologies to work and it's also going to take time for the IT department to break users into groups and find out who is better able to use a hosted desktop that is not run locally but in the data center."

Thinstall, which is based in San Francisco, has about 600 customers in both the enterprise space and within government. Lambert believes that VMware will re-brand the Thinstall product line by the second half of this year, but that it will keep the company's partnership with LANDesk and BMC in place.

In addition to Thinstall, VMware announced this week that it would acquire Foedus, a Portsmouth, N.H. company that provides a number of virtualization technology services for desktops.