What's Next In Desktop Virtualization

Increased flexibility for users and improved security are expected benefits of a secure client virtual machine based on XenServer.

Client virtualization is going mainstream, says Intel's Bryant.
Intel and Citrix Systems are teaming to answer the question of how desktop virtualization will measure up to the more prevalent server virtualization.

Later this year, Intel will produce chips with its vPro virtualization technology optimized for a hypervisor on the client, as well as on Citrix's XenServer server-side hypervisor. That adaptation will set up a two-tier virtualization hierarchy in which a central server feeds interactions to a desktop PC and a client hypervisor takes over when the user disconnects.

In that scenario, the server hypervisor remains the senior partner. Once reconnected, the laptop checks in with the server hypervisor to receive updates and security changes. The mobile computer would be under the administration of a central authority, but the user's desktop image would move around with him or her on the laptop or other mobile device. Intel VP Gregory Bryant expects the collaboration with Citrix to lower barriers to implementation and bring "client virtualization to the mainstream."

Citrix and Intel plan to adhere to standards where possible, but Raj Dhingra, general manager of Citrix's Desktop Delivery Group, said in an interview that the priority is to deliver "a secure client virtual machine based on XenServer."

The vPro changes will appear in laptop versions of Intel's Nehalem chip architecture in the second half, enabling virtualization based on hardware manufactured with it.

Dhingra foresees a two-tier hypervisor hierarchy. For example, companies can let employees buy their own laptops, just as some buy cell phones, then download the corporate desktop image onto those machines. In addition, corporate data will be more freely available on mobile devices, but it will be encrypted and synchronized with central databases for backup. Management will be policy-driven and automated.

If the approach pans out, employees will be able to access corporate desktops from any device "without thinking twice," Dhingra says, just as they access e-mail from smartphones.

Bottom line:
A two-tier virtualization hierarchy retains data center control while delivering a mobile image to run on a laptop or other device. That translates into increased flexibility for users, improved security, and lower admin costs.