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12/2/2008
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VMware Introduces Cloning In Virtual Desktops

Cloning saves storage because only one image of an application is shared across multiple users, according to VMware.

VMware on Tuesday unveiled a new way of handling virtual desktops that promises to reduce the amount of storage needed by as much as 70%.

The latest advancement is contained in VMware View 3, a bundle of applications for virtual desktop computing. Rather than build a desktop image for each user, the software makes it possible to clone the same image and tweak each clone to satisfy the needs of individual users.

Cloning saves storage because only one image of an application is shared across multiple users, according to VMware. As a result, there's no need to dedicate one image of Microsoft Office and Outlook or an SAP client, for example, to each user.

The reduction in application images can reduce the storage requirements of a virtual desktop up to 70%, according to VMware. While the percentage is big, at least one analyst briefed on the new software believes it's achievable. "I'm inclined to believe it," Andi Mann, an analyst for Enterprise Management Associates, told InformationWeek.

The storage benefits are particularly important in companies that deploy thousands of desktops. "Storage is a very big problem in desktop virtualization," Mann said.

VMware's use of cloning is unique in the industry. The company's major rival in desktop virtualization is Citrix Systems, which competes with its XenDesktop and XenApp products.

"What Citrix does is manage applications and customizations separately," Mann said. "It's a similar idea, but I think VMware is doing it in a unique way."

Other important features within VMware View 3 are in the area of customization of virtual desktops. Tailoring desktops to the user are done through View Composer and ThinApp, both components of the View 3 bundle.

The ability to customize is important because end user complaints with virtualized desktops are the biggest hindrance to deployment. An EMA survey of enterprise IT departments and businesspeople found 43% listing internal political issues as the biggest deterrent.

"Treating the user community monolithically is a path to failure in virtualization," Mann said. "If you don't accommodate specific user differences, they will reject your rollout."

An experimental feature VMware is releasing with View 3 is called Offline Desktop. The technology enables users to take their virtual desktops with them on a notebook, and then synchronize changes with the data center when they return to the corporate network.

"This could be revolutionary," Mann said. "It's very early and it's not in production, but I'm going to keep my eye on it. It could turn out to be very important."

Virtualization vendors offer their products as an alternative to running office applications on every desktop in an organization. Besides the licensing costs, the vendors argue that such configurations are much more expensive to manage and maintain.

For more views on how desktop virtualization drives security, not just dollar savings, InformationWeek has published an independent analysis on the subject. Download the report here (registration required).

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