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10/19/2005
02:23 AM
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IBM Brings Virtualization To The Desktop With Blade Bundle

The system pairs an IBM xSeries or BladeCenter server with versions of VMWare's virtual infrastructure software and Citrix's Presentation Server.

IBM is taking the wraps off a new desktop blade server with partners VMware and Citrix Systems that it promises will be more efficient than other blade offerings on the market.

Called the IBM Virtualized Hosted Client Infrastructure, the new system is being unveiled at VMworld 2005 in Las Vegas. The solution pairs an IBM xSeries or BladeCenter server with versions of VMWare's virtual infrastructure software and Citrix's Presentation Server pre-integrated.

Like other desktop blade servers, IBM's new system will host a desktop environment for client systems. But its use of virtualization to host the environment distinguishes it from competing products. Using that technology, one blade can support as many as 12 to 15 desktop environments, said Juhi Jotwani, director of BladeCenter and xSeries solutions at IBM. Other desktop blades servers map one blade to one client, she said.

To optimize the hosted desktop environment, Citrix made some modifications to the Presentation Server to support network printing, USB ports and dual monitors, according to Jotwani. "Users can leverage the full capabilities of a desktop machine," she said.

IBM is piloting the system with some clients through its IBM Global Services (IGS) division, Jotwani said. An IGS service offering is planned for the first quarter of 2006, and IBM expects to roll it out to select partners at that time, she said. Jotwani declined to provide pricing information for the system.

Desktop blade servers offer customers several advantages. Because the desktop environment is hosted from a central server, the environment is more secure and easier for an IT staff to support. Such solutions are being aimed at vertical markets such as health care, financial services, retail, telecommunications and call centers.

IT vendors offering one-to-one desktop blade solutions include Hewlett-Packard, with its Consolidated Client Infrastructure, and ClearCube. IBM's key differentiator in the desktop blade space is its virtualized environment, according to Pund-IT analyst Charles King. The pitch is to give customers a way to host 12 to 15 desktops on one server blade, he said.

"You are getting a higher level of server utilization with a model like that. It is a thrifty way of providing desktop support for clients,” King said. Tools also are available so IT staff can reallocate a server blade at times when desktop environments aren't in use, he added.

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