IBM Finally Introduces New Virtual Desktop Package

UPDATED: New channel-enabled package provides anytime, anywhere access to personal desktops for $150 per seat/per year.

SAN FRANCISCO -- IBM, as it customarily does when it develops a new product, took its time in finding the right in-house technologies and outside partners to put together its own virtual desktop package.

Big Blue collected all the required ingredients and simmered them with quality assurance testing and best practices for nearly two years. Finally, the Virtual Desktop for Smart Business launched Jan. 24.

The new, Web-based and channel-enabled IBM enterprise desktop package provides anytime/anywhere secure access to personal desktops on any device -- PC or Mac, Windows or Linux (SUSE, Ubuntu or Red Hat). It is designed primarily to run on IBM System x mainframes but works equally well on x86 servers, IBM Solution Strategist Antony Satyadas told eWEEK.

No matter that dozens of other companies are already far ahead of IBM in this sector, including such longtime competitors as Hewlett-Packard, VMware, Wyse, Oracle, Citrix, and Cisco Systems. Oh, and don't forget all those brazen newcomers that include Kaviza, nComputing, Wanova, eG Innovations and others.
Virtual Bridges a key partner

Austin, Texas-based Virtual Bridges, with its Verde VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] control system, is supplying the management interface secret sauce that IBM required. Virtual Bridges' central management and reporting works through a single console; IBM estimates 200 desktops can be run from a single IBM server.

"Yes, we're always pretty deliberate with the partners we choose when we do any kind of solution," Satyadas told eWEEK during a demo of the virtual desktop at Big Blue's Market Street offices. "But that's why IBM is IBM."

The IBM Virtual Desktop enables Windows or Linux desktops to be hosted and managed centrally and will work with a range of devices, including tablets, netbooks, laptops, thin clients and servers. Because this, like most virtual desktops, comprises a separate window on a desktop that can accommodate several windows, it's not optimal for small smartphone screens.

This Virtual Desktop includes Virtual Bridges' easy-to-read-and-understand Verde management software console, which can be deployed on a customer's own data center or through a channel-created private cloud environment.

Controls for the virtual desktop are largely pre-configured, although there's plenty of room for customization. The VDI system also features continuous backup and recovery, Satyadas said.

Depending upon pre-configured policies, users of the system can exchange documents back and forth between the business desktop and the local desktop with ease. Latency in the VDI has been improved, Satyadas said, so as barely to be noticeable -- especially when performing routine activities, such as checking email, surfing the Web, or viewing documents or photos. Heavier workloads still can cause some minor latency issues.

Benefits of VDI are apparent

The benefits of a virtual desktop system have long been apparent: faster deployment and undeployment of employee desktops, lower licensing costs, less complexity, automatic software updates and security patches, easier and more efficient policy enforcement, and so on.

IBM's version is no different from the others in these regards. The two main differentiators, Satyadas said, are the fact that this system can work with Macs, Windows or Linux, and that this is IBM -- not a lesser-known entity -- that's backing everything up.

Virtual Desktop for Smart Business can be deployed on a customer's own infrastructure or through a business partner private cloud hosted environment.

"We're seeing a great deal of interest in this from the health care industry, among others, because a lot of doctors and health practitioners want to use their iPads when doing their rounds," Steve Giondomenica, president of California-based systems integrator CMI, told eWEEK.
"They don't want to be tied down to a desk every time they want to look up a patient's records. This new virtual desktop works very well with iPads and other tablet PCs."

Another interesting aspect of this is the pricing, which works out to $150 per seat/per year, per one-year contract. It is designed with the midmarket and SMB customer (500 seats or fewer) in mind, although larger enterprises certainly might become interested.

IBM Virtual Desktop for Smart Business is available now in North America, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Poland, IBM said. The company plans to make the offering available in China, India, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand by March 2011.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Virtual Bridges is the chief IBM partner in the new virtual desktop product.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...