IBM is looking to lure customers with a bundle of Linux, virtualization and its Lotus collaboration software as an alternative to Microsoft desktop software during the recession.
IBM joined forces with Virtual Bridges and Canonical Dec. 4 to offer a virtual desktop package comprises three software components that sit on one corporate server. The bundle, billed as "Microsoft free," is then provisioned to hundreds or even thousands of desktops.
IBM Global Services is reselling the package for Virtual Bridges, which charges $49 per seat for a 1,000-seat deployment. Additional volume discounts are available via Virtual Bridges.
The package includes the Verde virtual desktop client from Virtual Bridges; the Ubuntu Linux operating system from Canonical; and IBM's Open Collaboration Client Solution software, a suite that is based on IBM Lotus Symphony, IBM Lotus Notes and Lotus applications.
Verde and Ubuntu power the Lotus apps-which include e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, instant messaging and social networking software-to any laptop or mobile device from a virtual desktop log-in supported by a Linux-based server.
Inna Kuznetsova, director of IBM Linux Strategy, touted the offering as a solution for companies staggered by financial pressures to keep costs down.
The whole idea is to untether corporate users, who are becoming increasingly mobile, or "deskless," from ties to specific machines. In the process, IBM aims to replace Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office productivity apps.
Kuznetsova told eWEEK that system administrators can let end users sign up from any desktop computer or workstation connected to the company network and access their desktop collaboration apps, including Lotus e-mail, spreadsheet and social networking tools. Kuznetsova added:
"As your desktop machine supports certain protocols, you can access and use it. It's all being stored on the server, so all the upgrades and updates can be performed on the server simultaneously by the system administrator."
Moreover, the flexibility of the virtual desktop is such that the physical desktops don't have to run Ubuntu, but can run Apple's Mac OS X, Microsoft's Windows or other Linux installations.
Appealing to cost-constrained shops worldwide, IBM claims the virtual desktop will yield a 90 percent savings of desk-side PC support and 75 percent savings on security and user administration, not to mention 50 percent on help desk services and software installations from Microsoft-based deployments.
IBM makes other eye-popping claims about how much customers will save from software license costs, hardware upgrades and reduced power to run the configuration.
Such statistics must be taken with a grain of salt as usual when IBM is looking to lure customers from Microsoft in this age-old competition. No doubt Microsoft has its own case studies for when its Exchange Server trounces Lotus Domino, or when Windows bests Linux from a cost perspective.
The important thing to note is the virtualization hook that is becoming so prevalent in data centers, which erodes the notion that desktop packages have to be loaded locally onto every machine.
Expect to see more of this in 2009 as companies further aim to cut costs during the deepening recession.