Startup Unidesk Tackles VDI Management Challenges


Companies adore the efficiencies virtual desktop infrastructure brings, but managing VDI has traditionally resulted in a stripping away of employees' ability to personalize their desktop environments as they see fit. This is a niche of opportunity that virtualization startups are moving quickly to fill.

One such startup is Marlborough, Mass.-based Unidesk, whose eponymous flagship product tackles the challenges of managing heterogeneous VDI environments. Unidesk supports fully personalized desktops, enabling users to download applets and applications beyond what IT delivers.

This hasn't been a problem in physical desktop environments but it's almost unheard of in the desktop virtualization world, according to Unidesk CEO Don Bulens.

"Our job is helping customers manage desktops for their users and giving IT better control over deploying, patching and upgrading their Windows desktops and apps," Bulens said in an interview. "It's replicating the desktop experience while providing IT with full lockdown control of the OS and patches they deliver to it. The user gets what they want, and so does IT."

Savings in desktop virtualization usually come in the form of reduced power consumption and reduced capital cost for PCs, but Unidesk believes there's money to be saved in cutting the complexity of managing desktop operations, the costs of which are especially high in large enterprises.

Unidesk recently won a virtual desktop management deal with Tupelo, Miss.-based Renasant Bank, which is deploying VDI to its 1,100 employees in 75 offices across the southeastern U.S. Renasant is using Citrix XenDesktop as a connection broker, but its desktops will be hosted in the data center on VMware vSphere.

Bulens said Renasant chose Unidesk because of its ability to bridge the management gap between the different systems. "We complement Citrix and VMware with unique added value, part of which reduces capex by cutting storage footprint," he said, adding that the storage savings some from sharing a single image of the OS and applications across a multitude of desktops.

Unidesk is working on the Renasant deployment with Kittery, Maine-based solution provider Greenpages. Chris Ward, senior solutions architect at Greenpages, said Unidesk has carved out an important niche with its focus on the personalization side of the VDI equation.

"Creating application packs for complex applications has typically been more of an art than a science, but Unidesk makes it more of a science," said Ward.

Virtualization management has a Gold Rush feel at the moment as the explosion of virtual machines begins to create challenges. Unidesk, and dozens of other startups that are targeting the virtualization management niche, are poised for growth -- provided that they can develop new and unique solutions to problems that the virtualization Big Dogs haven't yet managed to solve.