VMware, Nvidia Look to Bring Chromebooks to Enterprises

The vendors are leveraging their respective technologies to enable the popular notebook to better handle graphics-rich applications.


VMware, Nvidia and Google want to take the Chromebook, which is increasingly popular among consumers and in such areas as education, and make it more attractive to the enterprise.

At the VMworld 2014 show this week, the three companies demonstrated how the combination of VMware's Blast Performance software and Nvidia's Grid vGPU technology will enable Chromebooks to handle graphically intensive applications, such as Adobe Illustrator CC, AutoDesk's AutoCAD and Microsoft Office, in desktop virtualization environments.

Such capabilities will make it easier for organizations to adopt the low-cost and highly efficient Chromebooks, according to officials with the companies.

"Many enterprises have adopted desktop virtualization," Justin Boitano, director of product marketing for Nvidia's cloud and virtualization business, wrote in a post on the company's blog. "But lots of IT organizations have struggled to economically move users to cloud-hosted desktops and applications—without sacrificing productivity—because it just hasn't been feasible to virtualize rich graphics-intensive apps."

That's going to change, Boitano said. The companies' joint solution is addressing the situation both in the data center and at end-user devices. Nvidia is combining its Grid vGPU technology—which enables greater sharing of GPU acceleration between multiple desktops—with the VMware Horizon desktop-as-a-service solution in the data center, a move that will enable more desktops and applications to be deployed on a single physical server by optimizing GPU and CPU utilization in the system.

By combining the two technologies, "any user on any device can benefit from having a GPU, as well," Boitano wrote.

On the device side, VMware, Nvidia and Google are working to enable Chromebooks to more easily run these graphics-rich applications by leveraging VMware's Blast Performance technology in the data center and the firmware in Chromebooks running on Nvidia's Tegra K1 GPUs.

"We are breaking down traditional barriers to adopting virtual desktops and offering new economics for the delivery of graphics-intensive applications through the power of the cloud," Sanjay Poonen, executive vice president and general manager of end-user computing at VMware, said in a statement. "Organizations of all industries and requirements will soon be able to embrace the mobile-cloud using a solution that offers a new way to work from three proven industry leaders."

The capabilities enabled by the technologies from VMware and Nvidia not only will make Tegra K1-based Chromebooks better able to handle such applications, but will also make them more power-efficient, said Nvidia's Boitano. Thanks to decode technologies in the GPU, battery life can be extended by as much as 50 percent, he said.

The companies demonstrated the technology during the show in San Francisco, and VMware and Nvidia customers can now register for an early access program that will be available in the fourth quarter.

Analysts are seeing increasing interest in Chromebooks in the commercial space, particularly in education. The NPD Group in July noted that in the first five months of the year, Chromebook sales in the U.S. commercial channel jumped 250 percent and accounted for 35 percent of all channel notebook sales, with numbers strengthening as schools begin buying technology.

"Building on last year's surprising strength, Chrome's unit strength ahead of this year's education buying season shows how it has become a legitimate third platform alongside Windows and Mac OS X and iOS," Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis, said in a statement.

In addition, competition in the Chromebook space is heating up, the analyst firm found. Between January and May last year, Samsung owned 88 percent of the market, followed by Acer at 7 percent. During the same months in 2014, Samsung still led the market, but with only a 48 percent share. Acer's share grew to 31 percent, followed by Hewlett-Packard at 17 percent.

IDC analysts Aug. 27 also said the growing demand for Chromebooks—particularly in the education space in mature markets—was a factor in the improving health of the battered global PC market.