Hewlett-Packard is expanding the capabilities of its virtual desktop infrastructure software suite to include improved multimedia support for virtual clients as well as the ability to use Linux and Microsoft Windows with HP's own broker software.
On Dec. 8, HP released the new software suite, which the company now calls the HP Virtual Client Essentials suite, which expands the company's ability to offer a range of products and services for those enterprises looking to invest in a virtual client infrastructure or VDI.
There are several benefits to creating a virtual desktop infrastructure within an enterprise, including the ability to keep a company's critical data in a centralized location in the data center. This type of infrastructure offers a better way to secure the data, while allowing the IT department to manage all the physical assets from one location.
At the same time, many businesses have been hesitant to invest in this type of centralized infrastructure due to the overall cost of creating a VDI as well as lingering concerns about delivering rich multimedia capabilities to desktops or thin-client PCs from the data center.
However, many companies are looking to eliminate those concerns. Earlier this month, VMware released its new DVI suite, which offers better management capabilities at a lower cost. At the same time, IBM has teamed with Virtual Bridges and Canonical to offer what the company calls a "Microsoft-free" virtual desktop infrastructure that uses Ubuntu Linux as the main operating system.
Of all the companies that offer a VDI suite, HP is in a unique position. The company offers not only traditional desktop and laptop PCs, but also blade workstations, thin clients, server systems and other physical assets needed to create the infrastructure. At the same time, HP has relationships with the major virtualization vendors-VMware, Citrix and Microsoft-as well as the ability to develop its own software.
With the Virtual Client Essentials, HP is looking to solve some of the problems with delivering rich multimedia content, such as video, to desktops that are part of a company's VDI. In addition to HP's own RGS (Remote Graphics Software) protocol, the company is working with Microsoft to improve the capabilities of its RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol), which is the software that transfers data between the virtualized servers and the client sitting on the user's desk.
In the past, when a number of users attempted to log on to a company's virtual desktop infrastructure, the centralized protocol software could not support the multimedia technologies that users needed, according to Manoj Malhotra, a product marketing manager for HP's Client Virtualization group.
To solve this problem, Malhotra said, HP will begin shipping its version of the Microsoft RDP with its thin-client PCs. This shifts the burden away from the virtual server and moves it to the client itself. For example, video is now decoded on the client itself, and it also allows the end user to use USB devices with his or her own client.
"The minute the server encounters a multimedia screen, instead of using its own CPU, it will identify that multimedia screen without decoding it and send that multimedia screen to the thin client and let the thin client decode it for the end user," said Malhotra.
While RDS will handle what the majority of employees need in terms of multimedia, the HP RGS will help handle the types of multimedia and three-dimensional technology needed for CAD (computer-aided design) workers who use hardware such as blade workstations and multiple displays
At the same time, HP has expanded its HP SAM (Session Allocation Manager)-the software that works as the session broker for remote clients-to support both Microsoft Windows and Linux. HP also enhanced its SAM software to include session timers that tell IT when a client is no longer using resources and can automatically shut down those compute resources.
HP will start shipping its RDP and enhanced SAM software for Windows-based clients in January and then ship the suite for Linux-based clients in the first quarter of 2009. HP will also allow for customers using older HP thin clients to download the RDP software for free.
While the upgraded RDP software is free, HP is charging $35 for a floating license for its RGS software. The price jumps to $199 for the RGS license for an HP blade workstation.