PALO ALTO, Calif.-VMware is continuing to reinvent its desktop virtualization offerings.
While the majority of the virtualization company’s efforts to date have focused on servers and the management of virtual environments, VMware has also spent a good deal of time, and money, looking at emerging ways to create hosted desktop environments that are centrally managed through the data center.
Within VMware, the company is pursuing two different tracks to desktop virtualization. The company offers products such as ACE (assured computing environment) for partitioning individual desktops and laptops. It’s also evolving its VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) suite for creating a centralized desktop environment where all the images are managed and controlled in the data center.
Now, VMware is looking to add new dimensions to its VDI suite.
Through its January acquisition of Thinstall, VMware is looking to add an application streaming component to its VDI suite, which allows applications to be stored in the data center and then streamed to the desktop when needed.
At its European showcase last month, VMware also talked about an experimental technology dubbed “Scalable Virtual Images,” where virtualization technology creates a single master image within a server and the individual desktop images are created or cloned from that master image, making patching and security easier, said Jerry Chen, senior director of VMware’s Enterprise Desktop division.
Even with these advances coming, VMware and other vendors-Citrix through its acquisition of XenSource is exploring streaming models and other technology-the industry remains unsure of how all this will unfold.
A recent survey by Intel shows an interest by enterprises in exploring alternatives to traditional desktop deployments, but the report found that no particular model has emerged as a favorite among IT managers. The report also shows that administrators do not anticipate adopting one of these models within the next two years.
Some analyst also believe that many businesses do not want to rip out and replace their current infrastructures for untested models, despite the promise of better manageability and less desktop visits by the IT department.
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said part of the problem with these models is that it reminds both IT departments and users about the difficulties in bringing the thin-client PC model into the enterprise during the last 10 years and the limitations of this type of computing.
“For some reason, things have been talked about for year after year and the technology always looks great, but the adoption never seems to go beyond a small number of companies,” King said. “The staff doesn’t seem to understand and with the cost of PCs continuing to drop, it just seems easier to replace the older ones when the time comes.”
Security Is Driving Customer Demand for VDI
Jerry Chen, the senior director of VMware’s Enterprise Desktop division, said he sees a growing interest in the type of centralized, hosted environment that VMware is proposing through its VDI suite.
“We are seeing clients asking about this technology and interested in exploring these different models and I think that is a symptom of the pain points that are out there,” Chen told eWEEK. “They are looking for a better way.”
Chen pointed to a report by Gartner that found that there could be as many as four million virtual machines in circulation by 2009 and that the market for desktop virtualization has the potential to outstrip server virtualization within a few years.
Those companies that are approaching VMware to develop these models-health care, financial services, government agencies-are those most in need of a secure environment for data and under pressure to secure that data to meet legal requirements, Chen said. These are also companies that have large fleets of PCs, making it difficult to manage.
While VMware knows the importance of offering a secure, centralized way to manage a fleet of desktops, Chen believes that the streaming application model also benefits the users most by making the images “look and smell just like a PC.”
VMware plans to add Thinstall software into its VDI suite by later this year. The Scalable Virtual Images initiative remains in an experimental stage for now and Chen did not know when the company would be able to produce a commercial product.
This initiative will allow VMware to move closer to its goal of separating the operating system from the hardware and then separating the OS from the applications, which should make securing and managing the individual images in the data center easier.
By creating master images, the technology should make patching and updating easier, while the individual images will allow users not only to have their own applications, but also allow them to chose from an approved pool of applications without worrying whether a new application will break the OS or the other applications.
“These are all parts of the puzzle,” Chen said. “The IT administrator gets compliance, management and security, and the users get the experience.”