Citrix, VMware, Others Add To Virtual Desktop Technology

The moves are increasingly important as the need for virtual desktop PCs quickly grows to exceed the need for virtual servers, said George Loridas, south central territory manager for Ryjac Computer Solutions, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider.

"Look at the potential for virtualization," Loridas said. "Everyone's doing storage virtualization. Everyone's doing server virtualization. But if you look at the number of PCs in a company compared to the number of servers, its 10-to-1, 50-to-1, 100-to-1."

Loridas, whose company works with desktop virtualization technology from VMware, of Palo Alto, Calif., and Provision Networks, which was acquired by Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Quest Software, said that desktop virtualization can be very attractive to midrange customers for a variety of reasons.

For instance, he said, the thin clients used with virtual desktops can consume under 10 Watts compared to 350 Watts for a typical PC, leading to a huge savings in costs. Operating system and application licensing costs are lower as there is no need to have a license for a PC which is not in use.

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And because the desktop PC image, including the operating system and applications, is encased in a file, virtual desktop PCs can be provisioned on-demand, and can follow users no matter which device they use to access their applications, Loridas said. And updating and patching those images is much easier than traditional desktop PCs, he said.

The last few weeks have seen many vendors roll out new products and programs to help slim down a company's desktop PC infrastructure.

Citrix Systems, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Tuesday released the final beta version of its Citrix XenDesktop desktop virtualization software.

Several vendors, including Wyse Technology, San Jose, Calif.; IGEL Technology, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; and Hewlett-Packard, of Palo Alto, Calif., support Citrix XenDesktop with their server and thin client product lines

Citrix XenDesktop 2.0 is now shipping, and is the first technology to integrate application delivery into a virtual desktop, said Raj Dhingra, general manager of Citrix's XenDesktop Delivery Group.

The technology takes advantage of Citrix's experience in server-based applications for thin client computing, Dhingra said. "We've always believed that to get the proper virtual desktop, you need to separate the application from the operating system," he said. "Other solutions tie the application to the operating system to deliver multiple copies of the application."

With Citrix XenDesktop 2.0, an application used by multiple users is run off a single image, instead of each user having a copy of the application as part of his or her virtual desktop PC image, Dhingra said. The same is true for the operating system. As a result, storage requirements are cut considerably, and IT administrators need only patch a single copy of the application or operating system, he said.

Citrix XenDesktop 2.0 is available in five versions.

The Express Edition is free-of-charge, and can be used by up to 10 users to test the company's Desktop Delivery Controller and virtual machine infrastructure.

The Standard Edition is suitable for small branch office or pilot implementations of up to 100 users, and adds secure remote access. It is priced at $75 per virtual desktop per year.

The Advanced Edition adds desktop provisioning, resource pooling, and XenMotion virtual machine migration capabilities for an unlimited number of users at $195 per virtual desktop per year.

The Enterprise Edition includes all the core functionality along with integrated application delivery at an annual cost of $295.

The Platinum edition adds desktop delivery services such as performance monitoring, virtual desktop support, and WAN optimization at an annual cost of $395.

VMware on Monday unveiled new professional services offerings for its desktop virtualization technology that can be implemented by the company's own engineers or by VMware authorized consultants, said Jerry Chen, VMware's senior director of desktop solutions.

Those services include assessments, virtual desktop infrastructure and virtual application design, and solution implementation, Chen said.

Also this week is a technology agreement between VMware and Sun Microsystems, of Santa Clara, Calif., under which Sun's Sun Ray thin clients and Sun's Appliance Link Protocol (ALP) can be used with VMware's virtual desktop infrastructure. "We're extending our offerings' ecosystem," Chen said. "We're giving customers a choice and helping accelerate adoption."

Earlier this month, ClearCube, an Austin, Texas-based virtual desktop hardware and software vendor, spun off its software business as a new company, VDIworks.

The move to split the company stems from a need to make sure ClearCube's hardware and software are clearly vendor-agnostic going forward, and not tied to each other, said Amir Husain, CTO of ClearCube.

This is especially important as Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., starts to become a major factor in the desktop virtualization market, Husain said.

"A big piece of this is to provide customer choice," he said. "VMware is number one [in the desktop virtualization market] now. Will it be in 12 months? We don't know. So being vendor-agnostic is important. Our technology works with VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix Xen."

Going forward, VDIworks will continue to produce the Sentral software that runs ClearCube's virtual PC blade platform on an OEM basis, Husain said. It will also work with other vendors who wish to OEM the software to turn their own hardware into virtual desktop devices that work with any hypervisor-based platform.

"We don't think customers should be locked into a hypervisor," he said. "We offer holistic management from the thin client to the connection broker to the physical host that runs the hypervisor to the hypervisor itself. We manage them all, including the entire spectrum of hypervisor offerings."

Late last month saw the entry of a new vendor, Qumranet, Sunnyvale, Calif., into the desktop virtualization market.

Qumranet, the commercial sponsor of the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) solution for desktop virtualization for Linux on x86-based hardware, unveiled Solid ICE (Independent Computing Environment), a scalable desktop virtualization solution for providing users the same high-performance experience of physical PCs.

Solid ICE is aimed at overcoming the low-resolution graphics and poor audio/video characteristics of most virtual desktop solutions, said CEO Benny Schnaider.

"We decided we need to focus on what the end user is seeing," he Schnaider said. "The biggest obstacle to desktop virtualization is to convince the end users. If they are captive users, they can't complain. But if IT wants to convince users to move to virtual desktops, they need to look at how to increase the end user experience."

Qumranet does this with its own Special Protocol for ICE (SPICE) driver which provides a graphics rendering solution optimized for virtualization environments. SPICE also includes shared memory technology which allows multiple virtual desktop PCs running the same application to share memory related to the application to increase performance, Schnaider said.

Qumranet is currently looking at how to develop its indirect sales channel.