VMware rules the roost in server virtualization, and the advanced features coming in next month's View 5.1 release show that it is trying to take a bigger bite out of the desktop virtualization market.
VMware's View 5.1 release, details of which were first reported last week by CRN, includes several new features that address difficult technology issues organizations often encounter when rolling out virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) projects.
VMware partners are particularly intrigued by a new feature called View Storage Accelerator, which is designed to alleviate performance bottlenecks and cut storage costs in VDI environments. This feature is already part of vSphere, where it is known as Content Based Read Cache.
View Storage Accelerator caches common image blocks while reading View desktop images in order to keep storage load from spiking during periods of intense I/O activity, according to an internal VMware document viewed recently by CRN.
This is important because disk I/O is the number one make-or-break factor for the performance of View deployments, said Blaine Kahle, director of engineering at Five Nines Technology Group, a Lincoln, Neb.-based VMware partner.
"View Storage Accelerator has huge potential for VDI workload performance based on unofficial test results that I’ve seen," Kahle said.
View 5.1 also includes a technical preview of View Composer Array Integration (VCAI), a feature that uses the native cloning capabilities in storage arrays to offload storage operations. This improves the provisioning and management functions of View Composer, VMware's virtual image management tool, and lets customers leverage other storage options, according to the document.
VMware, which launched its vCenter Operations analytics tool for vSphere last March, is bringing it to View 5.1 in the form of a separate add-on purchase.
"vCenter Operations for View allows administrators to have broad insights into desktop performance, quickly pinpoint and troubleshoot issues, optimize resource utilization and proactively address potential issues," VMware says in the document.
View 5.1 extends VMware's View Persona Management feature to physical desktops, which preserves user settings across all Windows devices and speeds physical-to-virtual desktop migrations. View 5.1 also includes support for Radius two-factor authentication, expanded localization options, and desktop provisioning with pre-created Active Directory, according to the document.
VMware over the past couple of years has made View more of a priority, and the new functionality in View 5.1 serves as further evidence, said Rob Owens, vice president of equity research at Pacific Crest Securities, Portland, Ore.
"There has definitely been a change of tone," Owens said. "VMware is focusing more on computing beyond the PC, and they're talking more about developing technologies for getting apps and desktops onto a myriad of devices."
VMware could not be reached for comment on the new features in View 5.1.
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VMware's focus on View isn't new; its View 5 release last August added a raft of improvements, including integration with unified communications products from Cisco, Avaya and Mitel; View Media Services, a set of features that includes 3D graphics support for Windows 7 Aero and Office 2010; support for 3D applications that use DirectX and OpenGL; and client-side caching and other PCoIP optimization controls.
With the View 5.1 release, however, VMware is stepping up its "post-PC era" rhetoric and offering more insight into how it plans to take advantage of it. VMware executives often use the term to describe how mobile devices, virtualization and SaaS apps are combining to diminish the importance of the physical PC.
"The predictable and standardized PC-centric model of IT is now obsolete as IT is overrun with the diversity of devices, [operating systems] and applications," VMware says in the document.
Yet VMware is also aware that most of its customers aren't ready to cut ties with their Windows infrastructure. So the first step in its end-user computing strategy is to position View 5.1, and its ThinApp application virtualization product, as a way for customers to lower their total cost of ownership for Windows PCs and apps.
"Windows environments will have a long tail and the opportunity to optimize and better secure this environment is great," VMware says in the document.
The next step in VMware's strategy is for customers to embrace cloud computing, and the company's Horizon App Manager service plays a major role here. It detects Active Directory, or any LDAP-compliant service, and pushes it into the cloud where it can be used with Salesforce.com, Google Apps, and other third-party public cloud apps, with user passwords remaining safely behind the firewall.
VMware is planning to launch an on premise version of Horizon App Manager on June 15, according to the document. Horizon App Manager is a key component of VMware Horizon, VMware's identity-as-a-service hub that aims to tackle the IT challenges posed by mobile devices and SaaS apps.
The final piece of VMware's end-user computing visions hinges on social SaaS apps like Zimbra, Socialcast, and Sliderocket, which VMware is positioning as alternatives to Windows apps. Other key parts include AppBlast, VMware's technology for delivering Windows and other apps to Web browsers and device supporting HTML 5, and Project Octopus, the cloud storage service VMware has been calling "Dropbox for the enterprise."