VMware's New Bid To Simplify Desktop Virtualization - InformationWeek

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VMware's New Bid To Simplify Desktop Virtualization

VMware Wednesday launched VMware View 5.1, desktop virtualization technology designed to ease storage requirements and management chores; new vCenter management tools speed desktop provisioning.

In a bid to regain lost momentum with end users, VMware Wednesday launched VMware View 5.1, a more sophisticated approach to end-user device virtualization. In the process, it's adding desktop management tools to its vCenter management console, and making the rapid provisioning of hundreds of desktops at a time more of a sure thing.

VMware, the dominant supplier in enterprise server virtualization, has been playing catch-up to Citrix Systems and others in the end-user market. There, multiple device types, multiple display protocols, and multiple definitions of the required end-user experience have led to previously complex approaches from VMware and other vendors.

VMware View 5.1 is meant to simplify and rationalize the growing complexity. For example, it allows virtualization administrators to create and store just a handful of golden user desktop images, while still allowing them to capture personal settings, data, and applications that will individualize the users' workspaces upon restart, said Vittorio Viarengo, VMware VP of end user computing products.

An earlier attempt by virtualization vendors to store every individual desktop as a complete image led to immense, central storage costs. By replicating the parts of the workspace that many users share, such as the Windows operating system, Microsoft Office, and other applications, only a few master copies need to be stored.

[ Want to learn more about how network latency can spoil the best laid plans for desktop virtualization? See Desktop Virtualization Projects: Network Latency Can Kill. ]

VMware has added View 5.1 Storage Accelerator to the product to cache the data most frequently used, such as the operating system and application. This allows user workspaces to be assembled at the speed of memory rather than the slower speed of spinning disk drives, he added.

VMware has as an option in a "tech preview," or not yet a product, called Composer Array Integration, which will leverage the cloning ability of a storage array to assemble and deploy more than one user workspace at a time, allowing hundreds or thousands of users to start the day within a short time period without encountering a wait for a system to heed their calls. Composer Array Integration can be turned on for customers who wish to test drive it but it is not available as technically supported software, said Viarengo in an interview prior to the announcement.

The View Persona Management feature preserves users' personal settings from a physical desktop and can propagate them to all Windows devices. However, Viarengo said the settings are stateless. That is, users can't move from one device to another, start up a new virtual desktop, and expect to find applications holding data in the same state they left them on the other device. So VMware end-user virtualization hasn't quite reached the state where an end user can unplug from the corporate network, travel to another location, plug in with a new device, and retrieve work previously underway at the stage in which it was left.

Migrating "full blown, stateful desktop applications--we don't do that," he noted. Third parties, such as MokaFive and Unidesk, specialize in doing so, he added.

View 5.1 uses a PC-over-IP (PCoIP) protocol to deliver compressed, high-definition video with smooth motion or other rich media for an end-user experience equivalent to a powerful desktop PC, using the enterprise LAN or WAN Ethernet. The rendering has already been done on the server and the network is delivering the pixels that result.

User workspaces can be activated on Windows, Linux, or Mac computers; thin clients; iPhones or Androids; and iPad or Kindle Fire tablets. View's built-in network management recognizes the capacity of the network and nature of the end-point device and adjusts the display accordingly. If the network is constricted, a lower-definition image may be presented until capacity is freed up.

In addition to View 5.1, VMware has an add-on for View to allow vCenter Operations administrators to gain insight into desktop performance, watch for problem areas to develop, and troubleshoot bottlenecks.

VMware Horizon Application Manager, which has been available for six months as software-as-a-service from VMware is now available to work with View 5.1 as an on-premises appliance. VMware Horizon Application Manager is a rules engine, or "entitlement engine" (as VMware calls it), that applies rules and policies that determine what applications and data end-user desktops may access as they are generated. It includes the capabilities of two previous VMware products: ThinApp, which virtualized Windows applications, and the Horizon Application catalog of end user applications.

Viarengo said App Manager works across both on-premises applications and software-as-a-service and can use the federated identify features of Microsoft Active Directory so end users log in once and access all the applications to which they are entitled.

Another product, Project Octopus, is still in beta and will become available in the second quarter. It manages file syncing inside the firewall, under the supervision of IT. It would allow an employee to upload a photo from an iPhone to be shared with other employees across a variety of devices, Viarengo said.

InformationWeek has published a report on backing up VM disk files and building a resilient infrastructure that can tolerate hardware and software failures. Download Virtually Protected now. (Free registration required.)

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