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2/13/2014
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VMware, Google Team On Chromebooks

Unlikely partners team to offer Desktop-as-a-Service on Google Chromebooks. Will pricing lure users to move away from Windows XP systems?

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VMware has teamed up with Google to supply virtualized Windows desktops on Chromebooks. The move comes at a time when many enterprises, uncertain of what desktop to adopt next, have delayed moving off Windows XP or moving to Windows 7 or Windows 8.

VMware and Google executives claim companies can save $5,000 a head over other PCs with their joint arrangement. That may appeal to the estimated 29% of enterprise users still running Windows XP. Microsoft has announced it will end technical support for XP on April 8. VMware and Google announced the partnership at VMware's Partner Exchange show this week in San Francisco.

Windows applications haven't previously run on Chromebooks, a thin Web client whose slimmed-down Linux operating system was designed primarily to display feedback from applications running on Internet servers. It provides just the basics: a browser, a media player, and a file manager. By teaming up with Google, however, VMware can make it easier for Chromebooks to display a virtualized desktop running on Horizon View 5.3-equipped servers, VMware's desktop virtualization system. Such a desktop includes Windows Office and other Windows-oriented datacenter applications as needed, giving enterprises a thin client as a PC replacement.

VMware's Sanjay Poonen, VP and general manager of end-user computing, said VMware and Google product teams got together two months ago, or shortly after Amazon.com's plunge into its new Amazon Workspaces desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). Amazon announced in November that it will provide virtualized desktops capable of running Windows applications. That move may have jolted executives at both VMware and Google into action.

[Will virtualized desktops kill the PC? See Amazon Workspaces Speeds PC Demise.]

Poonen went out of his way to say that a joint customer, Softbank, spurred the move. "Softbank said we should be working more closely and that brought us together," he said.

Moving to Chromebook thin clients "brings a lot of benefits to both IT organizations and the users they support," said Ken Miyauchi, senior executive VP of SoftBank, in a statement Wednesday. With virtualized desktops running on centralized servers in the datacenter, IT no longer has to send field technicians out to work on end-user desktops or to update remote offices.

VMware and Google haven't been engaged in such close cooperation before, and indeed have regarded each other as competitors for potential cloud services customers. But Poonen made it clear that they were leaving that past behind them. "This is the first of many steps that we want to do with Google," he said.

Google Chromebooks.
Google Chromebooks.

Google would like to see more corporate uptake of its Google Apps and Chrome mobile devices. An enterprise user happy with access to Office applications on a Chromebook is a better candidate to use Google Apps out of the office, compared to one with no Chromebook.

Likewise, VMware has faced strong headwinds in the desktop virtualization market. In Google, it gets a device, as well as a partner with aspirations to provide mobile applications that also has a reputation for staying power behind its Chrome OS operating system and browser. There are several Chromebook producers as well.

Desktop-as-a-service on Chromebooks will initially be available on-premises to existing customers of Horizon View 5.3. It will become available from vCloud Hybrid Service datacenters "at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter," said Poonen. It is also available through VMware partner and vCloud Hybrid Service provider Navisite.

"When combined with VMware DaaS, Chromebooks can become powerful business tools for companies that want to move to the cloud but are heavily invested in Windows environments," said Sumeet Sabharwal, general manager of Navisite, a unit of Time Warner Cable. Google Chromebooks are thin and light, but have laptop-like high-resolution screens. They're more cost effective, said Sabharwal, but they also "provide the mobility coveted by today's enterprise users."

DaaS on Chromebooks will be offered on a subscription basis. No pricing was included in the announcement.

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Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek, having joined the publication in 2003. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse ... View Full Bio

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Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 8:27:23 PM
Re: VMware Google move
It seems to me that virtualization is the beginning of the end. Once people aren't directly involved with Windows, seeing it only through a virtualized instance, the less affinity they're going to have for it. Microsoft can't afford to be disintermediated that way.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 7:22:40 PM
DaaS Vs. VDI
The difference between virtual desktop infrastructure and desktop as a service is basically the difference between an  enterprise service and a cloud service. You could also say the only difference is scale, but in fact the two will need different mangement and control software. Both operate on similar principles of provisioning end user desktops on central servers and sending the display down the wire (or through the air) to the end user device. VDI is aimed at one enterprise; DaaS is meant to supply many enterprises. VMware is using PCoIP and RDP protocols to move the presentation to the end user. RDP would be what Windows Server uses to serve dumb terminals, just in case some people are starting to think this is rocket science.

 
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 5:24:41 PM
Re: New commercial obsolete
Yeah, Laurie, I wonder how much longer the "worthless without the Internet" stigma will stick. I see more and more articles refuting it, but a lot of people still seem to think Chromebooks turn into paperweights without WiFi. With Microsoft putting some marketing muscle behind anti-Chromebook efforts, the stigma might persist. But the very existence of those marketing spots demonstrates that Chromebooks have made a lot of progress-- enough to influence Microsoft's PR attitude, anyhow. 
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 5:15:35 PM
Re: New commercial obsolete
When I heard about this news, I thought about that commercial too. It's clear Microsoft is concered about Chromebooks eating into the lower end of the market. Apple owns a big, big chunk of the higher end, so that leaves Microsoft and Windows OEMs with an uncomfortable spot in the middle. Google's strategy for negotiating/leveraging the Windows base is getting pretty interesting.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 4:59:25 PM
Fat clients
Based on the number of hard drive crashed I've experienced over the years, I'd be willing to chuck my hard drive for a Chromebook. But how reliable is the  virtualized access to files and apps? 
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 4:43:03 PM
Re: VMware Google move
I suspect the main difference between desktop vitualization and desktop as a service has to do with the ability to provision a desktop.  That's one of the services the Department of Homeland Security has made strides trying to create internally for employees, so that they can essentially open an account, secure a virtual desktop and related apps, and have the monthly billing go to the correct accounting line.
rayheffer
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rayheffer,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2014 | 3:00:57 PM
Re: VMware Google move
Yeah licensing is a pain, but essentially you need Microsoft Virtual Desktop Access licenses (VDA) which they include as part of Software Assurance (SA). If you don't have SA then you'll need to buy the VDA license from Microsoft.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
2/13/2014 | 2:38:32 PM
Re: VMware Google move
Thanks Ray. I'm thinking you may be correct if not for the problem of connecting the Chromebook to RADIUS WiFi. You have to be connected to internal DHCP server to even logon to the domain.

If the Chromebook has USB port, and I'm thinking it did, you could use a USB to Network Adapter to hard wire to internal network. Then I suspect you are exactly right when signing on to virtual Win session.

In our case, we needed WiFi so was a hurdle that stopped us in our tracks. It was also somewhat cumbersome that device wanted to connect to internet at startup with a Google account. On our internal network, you can not connect to internet thru proxy server without being in AD group authorized to internet, a Catch-22 with Chromebook.

These Chromebooks did not have this built in VMWare ability this article is about, maybe it would have changed the game a little bit.

So, where does the Windows license come from? Surely MS isn't let this happen for free? Most old Win desktops are, at least here, OEM Win licenses which can not be transferred to other hardware. Seems like you would have to have a lot things setup a certain way in your Win environment to pull this off.
rayheffer
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rayheffer,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2014 | 2:10:36 PM
Re: VMware Google move
Hi Terry,

Whilst the Chromebook itself won't be joined to the domain, the Windows virtual desktops will be. This provides businesses to treat the Chromebook similarly to a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) if they so desire, whilst the corporate desktop (Windows XP, 7 or 8 virtual machine) will be secure and adhere to company IT security policies. If the Chromebook is lost or damaged, then there is no data to lose. The Acer C7 Chromebook has Ethernet and I'm sure others will.

Using virtual desktops in this way also provides compatibility with web apps that only support a particular version of Internet Explorer. By bringing ThinApp packaged applications (part of VMware Horizon Suite) to the virtual desktop, you'll have IE6 web apps launch in IE and other web services launch in Firefox or Chrome (or IE11!).

Looking forward to getting my hands on a Chromebook!


Ray
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
2/13/2014 | 1:44:43 PM
Re: New commercial obsolete
I don't think you can with a just-out-of-the-box Chromebook. The device, by itself, gives you the Chrome browser, which, when you have an internet connection, allows you access anything online. There is an array of apps that you can install on a chrombook that don't need the internet. You can also install Ubuntu (freeware Linux), which will give you a VERY wide array a freeware applications to work with.
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