Virtualization Set For Desktop Surge In 2009 - InformationWeek

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1/30/2009
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Virtualization Set For Desktop Surge In 2009

The push for cost savings will sweep virtualization solutions from VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, and others past the server, onto the desktop and into the cloud.

There is not yet an easy solution, although VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix Systems all offer combinations of tools and virtual machines that address it in various ways.

There is, however, one simplistic way to solve the problem: virtualize end-user applications independent of a complete individual desktop and make those applications available upon demand -- software as a service -- or by being streamed to the end user, where they run on the device. Chances are a mobile user will initially want one application to work with; the desktop can be assembled dynamically from the pieces as needed.

Major Firms Investing In Virtualized Applications

Is anyone doing this today? Not yet in many enterprises, but surprisingly, VMware, Citrix, Microsoft, and Symantec all have invested heavily in the virtualized application approach. Microsoft bought Softricity, which lead the way in virtualizing Microsoft applications; it became Softgrid inside of Microsoft and is now named App-V.

VMware bought ThinStall in January 2008 and redubbed its ThinStall app virtualization software ThinApp.

Citrix Systems, the early specialist in virtualized applications with Presentation Server, now renamed XenApp, acquired Ardence, an app streaming startup, in January 2007. Streaming an application means sending its logic bits down the wire to the end-user machine, where it's loaded and run. Most desktop virtualization schemes have the application running on a central server.

Symantec, the security software vendor, purchased Alteris in March 2007, AppStream in April 2008, and nSuite Technologies in August 2008. All are suppliers of application virtualization software. Together, these purchases represent about $2 billion spent on app virtualization products over the last two years, a clue to how seriously the major vendors are taking the approach.

Advantages Of Desktop Virtualization

In one sense, application virtualization breaks up the idea of an end-user desktop as a piece of hardware running a defined set of applications. It reconstitutes it as software that dynamically reflects the user's needs at the moment.

App virtualization also has the inherent advantage of not requiring end users to be on the same device each time they log in; it's mobile and can follow users around -- on an application-by-application basis -- as long as they have access to the Internet.

Application virtualization will tend to keep data stored on a central server. Lost that laptop? With a virtualized app, crucial information doesn't necessarily disappear with it. Those who want to get started on desktop virtualization can shoot for immediate gains, virtualizing lesser-used applications like Microsoft Visio or Project before tackling the ubiquitous Office or Outlook e-mail.

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