When VMware CEO Paul Maritz took the stage Aug. 29 at the first general session of the VMworld 2011 conference, he reminded several thousand attendees packed inside the auditorium of what a famous IT newsmaker once said about progress in the digital data world. He then connected that well-known statement with the present.
"Steve Jobs likes to say that 'We're entering into the post-PC era,' and we agree with that," Maritz (pictured) said. "But there are still hundreds of millions of PC users, and we need to do a better job of allowing those people to get access to the applications that they need."
And how does VMware propose to do this -- to make applications more portable and accessible to various new user devices? Why, with its new-generation virtualized desktop infrastructure, of course, fronted by VMware View.
For the record, desktop operating systems and applications in a VDI scenario run on virtual machines located on a server; users access these machines remotely. Users can run thin clients to access their virtual desktops, or use full-fledged Windows, Linux or Mac hardware -- regardless of the operating system running on the virtual desktop.
This model allows enterprises to separate the operating system and applications from the hardware, increasing flexibility and mobility, for example, by providing a full desktop experience over RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) on a Windows Mobile device.
The use of VDI holds great promise as a way of easing the pain many enterprises feel while administering tens of thousands of physical desktops, and VMware knows it. However, latency and other delivery issues have slowed down VDI development in general during the last decade.
VMware, Competitors Finding VDI Fixes
Not to worry. VMware and competitors such as Citrix, Wyse and Hewlett-Packard, are feverishly working on solving those problems, because the potential business rewards are great.
"So we continue to invest greatly in our (VMware) View desktop virtualization product; we're announcing View 5.0 at this event," Maritz said. "We're addressing virtually the entire list of customer concerns that we've referred from our customers. We've seen significant bandwidth improvements (to solve the latency problem); View 5 should work in high-latency and low-bandwidth environments significantly better than its predecessor did.
"We've addressed the need for client ubiquity; we will have new clients available for almost any device you can think of. We'll have integration with providers of Voice over IP (VOIP) and unified communications."
When you combine all of this new VDI capability with the upgrade work VMware is doing with the underlying automation engine and the scale improvements that are coming, Maritz said, "we believe that the combination of vSphere and View 5.0 will hands down give the industry the most cost-effective and scalable VDI solution."
In a post-PC world, control of data and files cannot belong to any one device, as it did for 20 years in the Windows client-server world, Maritz said. "We have to float away that other aspect of the desktop and find a different solution for that," he said.
Maritz offered VMware's year-old Horizon application manager as the way "IT can provision people with capabilities, associate applications to people, associate information to people, and not to devices. We're now moving down that road with Horizon."
'Virtual Phones' Next Up for VMware
Along the lines of abstracting physical devices, Maritz said that VMware is busy working on providing software for "virtual phones." VMware already has virtualized and abstracted servers, storage arrays and PCs, so the phone apparently is next in line. Maritz, however, didn't say how far away this software is on the roadmap.
"This basically allows you to have two phones on one physical phone," Maritz said. "What the enterprises will do is equip people with a virtual phone, and whatever phone the user has that virtual phone will live in the same physical phone, but it will be walled off from the user's personal environment.
"There will be a set of capabilities associated with your work phone that will be controlled by IT, and then you as a consumer can do whatever you want in your personal phone.
"So if you're living in a risky way and download a hacked version of 'Angry Birds,' that hacked version isn't going to read the corporate address book and transmit it to the bad guys wherever they may be."