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VMware, Sun Work To Virtualize Desktops

VMware will tap into Sun Microsystems' Appliance Link Protocol, which makes virtual machines perform faster.

VMware is aligning itself with Sun Microsystems' thin clients and Sun's Appliance Link Protocol as a way of boosting the performance of its approach to delivering virtual desktops.

Its timing couldn't be better: Citrix Systems is about to unleash new challenges to VMware on the desktop at its Synergy user group meeting in Houston today. VMware and Citrix are now squaring off in a contest over the virtualization of the desktop. In some ways VMware, the market leader in server virtualization, is reacting to Citrix's desktop moves.

For example, by aligning itself with Sun, VMware taps into Sun's Appliance Link Protocol, which makes virtual machines perform faster when running on a central server and displaying results on Sun Ray thin clients. VMware's Jerry Chen, senior director of enterprise desktop products, said ALP is "a low-bandwidth, low-latency protocol, especially on a wide area network," leading to higher VM performance for remote workers, branch offices, and offshore project team members.

This step is a countermeasure to Citrix's XenDesktop, which makes use of its proprietary ICA protocol. As a close Microsoft partner, Citrix has been able to get support for ICA built into Microsoft's Windows Server, giving its desktop virtualization products a potential performance advantage.

In addition, VMware's approach to the desktop now "adopts the best of Sun technology and the best of VMware," Chen said. VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure supports Sun's Sun Ray thin-client line, which includes the Sun Ray 270 with a 17-inch, flat-panel screen and a flexible, thin mount. The unit is a low-power consumer and starts at $869.

VMware is also launching VMware Professional Services, aimed at helping customers virtualize their desktops, whether thin clients or PCs. VMware consultants can advise on best practices and efficient, secure environments, Chen said. Through its Jumpstart program, VMware will train five IT staffers in the process of generating virtual desktops, granting user access, and decommissioning them through Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.

VMware Professional Services will train IT staff in the use of virtualized applications, which is the equivalent of XenApp (formerly Presentation Server) from Citrix. In this form of virtualization, end users are given access to online applications rather than access to a complete desktop with its own operating system. The approach is geared to users of a single or small set of related applications, such as call center staff, Chen said.

VMware consultants, or trained consulting partners, will also provide guidance on virtualizing end users in remote or branch offices.

VMware customers are more likely to move to desktop virtualization if they get guidance on how to move through its myriad choices. Learning best practices in integrating Microsoft's Active Directory with VMware's desktop infrastructure is more likely to keep that customer in the VMware camp, Chen said.

VMware has launched a thin-client certification program so that users will have their choice of thin-client devices. In addition to Sun, other thin-client producers are lining to have their devices certified, including: Wyse, HP, NEC, Pano Logic, Praim, IGEL, Devon IT, and Fujitsu Siemens Computers.

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