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VMWare Aims At Becoming PC Management Standard

Its new software lets PC administrators create policy controls specifying how long a user will have access to the operating system and applications, what peripherals can connect to the environment, and more.
VMware Inc. on Monday will broaden its virtualization technology platform with the introduction of provisioning software intended to allow for the creation of secure environments for enterprise desktop computer users.

VMware ACE is an assured computing environment that allows specific PCs to safely interact within a company's network, says Michael Mullany, VP of marketing. The product is initially targeted for use by PC administrators who want to provide secure and manageable network access for temporary and mobile workers, "but eventually we think this kind of product will become ubiquitous in the enterprise as the standard way of managing PCs."

ACE allows a PC administrator to create a policy-control "container" that includes an operating system and necessary applications. The container is then given to users in the form of a DVD for installation.

The administrator can specify the lifetime of the container, as well as what peripherals are allowed to connect to the secure computing environment. Users also can be blocked from copying files onto USB devices or removable storage disks. The container can also sense tampering attempts and shut down operation.

For companies using temporary contractors, it can be cost-prohibitive to supply a corporate laptop computer, and too large a security risk to allow the contractor to connect his or her personal computer to the network, Mullany says. "Practically speaking, no one allows external parties to connect to a corporate network," he says. "You never know what is on that PC, from viruses to improperly configured firewalls and unpatched systems." By installing ACE on the contractor's PC, however, secure access can be granted to the network, with a predefined expiration date.

Telecommuters also are expected to represent a large opportunity for ACE, Mullany says. "This is a very safe, controlled, and manageable way to allow telecommuters access to the corporate network," he says.

ACE comes with Virtual Rights Management copy protection and automatic encryption, which encrypts data whenever a PC is shutdown, protecting data in laptop systems that are stolen or lost, Mullany says.

"We think this cuts through a lot of the security, management, and control issues that PC administrators have with end users," he says. "Most end users like to have a lot of freedom in how they use their desktops, and a lot of PC administrators like to have a lot of control."

ACE will be available for beta download on Monday, with general availability set for the fourth quarter. Pricing for desktop users is set at $100 per user. Pricing for the administrative console has not yet been revealed.