Hewlett-Packard is teaming up with virtualization vendor VMware to offer enterprises the option of re-centralizing end user desktops on central servers. It's the prospective rollback of the client/server revolution.
Instead of employees being given their own computers, they would be served their Microsoft Office applications from a virtual machine in a data center. The application running on a virtual machine would have its interactions streamed down to a user's thin client, or regular computer if a desktop machine was left in place. But the application logic would be performed on a server in a virtual machine.
"Here's a way to make sure sensitive information stays inside the company," says Doug Strain, product manager for virtualization for Hewlett-Packard, in an interview. If the end user isn't carrying data on a computer hard drive outside the company, that data can't be lost through a simple laptop theft. But remote end users can access their desktops by dialing up the virtual machine over a VPN connection, he adds.
HP Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is built atop VMware's Infrastructure, which manages multiple VMware Server and VMware ESX Server virtual machines. HP adds its own management software, such as Consolidated Client Infrastructure, which centralizes PC processing operations in the data center, and HP Systems Insight Manager, which centralizes storage management. Both have been available for several years.
The team-up of HP and VMware allows end user desktops to be given discrete virtual machines instead of just time-shared resources. The end user's personal settings and data can be made quickly accessible by their capture and presentation in a virtual machine, Strain says.
The running applications could be on different versions of Windows, reflecting the state of the end user's machine when the shift to the data center was made, as opposed to moving everyone under one version of Windows, he notes.
In its initial offering, HP is only offering VMware's virtual machine software as the staging platform for end user desktops. Strain says it is looking into Microsoft's Virtual Server but right now "VMware has more tools around it," such as VMotion, which allows a running virtual machine to be moved from one physical server to another without an interruption to the end user.