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Oracle Charges Into Desktop Virtualization With VDI 3.2

Oracle expands capabilities of former Sun Microsystems virtual desktop product with a comprehensive approach that includes a virtualized host, standardized desktop images, high-performance multimedia, and a management console.

Oracle is expanding the role it seeks to play in enterprise virtualization by augmenting a former Sun Microsystems approach to desktop virtualization, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, now in release 3.2.

Oracle VDI 3.2 is a comprehensive approach, starting with a virtualized host, standardized desktop images that run on a server and provide services to end users, which includes delivery of high performance multimedia, such as video and graphics. In addition, it includes a management console, explained Wim Coekaerts, senior VP of Linux and Virtualization Engineering. "This is the first major release of VDI branded with the Oracle look and feel. Oracle is thoroughly committed to the desktop virtualization space," Coekaerts said in an interview.

Desktop applications run on central servers under the Oracle VDI hypervisor, a version of the Oracle VirtualBox hypervisor. IT managers will have a broad set of choices in how they set the applications up. Oracle VDI can run virtual machine applications using Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 2000, Oracle Enterprise Linux, Canonical's Ubuntu or Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. The applications' services are sought by end users logging into the central server, with the application presentation being sent down the wire to devices that may be PCs, Macs and laptops or Oracle Sun Ray thin clients, Coekaerts explained. VDI 3.2 includes directory services that can make use of multiple identity management directories, helping enterprises serve end users who may be located in different domains or facilities. More than one data center can be spanned by VDI 3.2, and in the event of the loss of virtual servers at one data center, requests can be redirected to an alternate site, Coekaerts said.

Virtual desktop administrators may establish Windows desktop images, and end users may provision themselves with one of the images through VDI 3.2. The underlying Windows images can be updated while the images are in use, preserving individual user settings and data in the process. The capability avoids disruption, while saving space on disk that would be needed if the process required swapping new images for old.

Coekaerts said a competitive advantage for Oracle over VMware and Microsoft is that Oracle doesn't depend on Windows 7 to manage a video stream to the client. The Oracle VM hypervisor can detect the nature of the end user device and send a compressed video stream itself, allowing it to direct high speed video to Linux devices without depending on the Windows 7 version of Remote Desktop Protocol. Both VMware and Microsoft's Hyper-V depend on RDP in Windows 7, Coekaerts said.

"We do it lower down in the stack than in Windows 7. We emulate a video device in the hypervisor. Windows sees the (emulated) device and sends the video there," and the hypervisor is able to transfer it to the end user device in the appropriate format, even if the client is a Linux machine, he said.

In May, Oracle issued a patch update to Sun's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, release 3.1. Wednesday's announcement is the first release of VDI under the Oracle brand with an Oracle look and feel to the product. "It's only been a few months since the acquisition," said Coekaerts. "We know what we want to do with this product going forward."

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