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IGEL Developing Linux Distro For Windows Virtual Desktop Users

The thin-client vendor has refocused its business on its lightweight OS optimized for edge environments. When released next year, IGEL will deliver the first Linux distribution built for devices connecting to Microsoft's recently launched Desktop as a Service.

IGEL is working to enable Windows Virtual Desktop to run on endpoint devices powered by its lightweight Linux distribution, the company revealed Tuesday.

When introduced to market next year, IGEL's "edge" operating system will be the first version of Linux supporting Microsoft's recent venture into the Desktop-as-a-Service market.

The Germany-based company known for thin clients has in the past year refocused its business on a booming market for the Linux it purpose-built for virtualized and cloud environments.

Two decades of developing a specialized OS and management tools for a thin-client portfolio "has found us in a highly relevant place right now," Jed Ayres, IGEL's CEO and president for North America, told CRN.

[Related: Fast Growing IGEL Set To Shake Up Endpoint Market With NVIDIA, AWS Integration And New MSP/SI Program]

Linux has long been the pervasive choice in cloud environments and the Internet of Things, Ayres said. But in 2018, it also surpassed Windows as the leading operating system for thin clients receiving virtualized workloads.

Virtualized apps, desktops and workspaces are typically deployed in regulated environments where users are trying to escape the overhead in management, security, cost and complexity of running local instances of Windows, Ayres said.

"You don't want to put Windows back in the edge again," he said.

Widespread adoption of virtual desktops always seems a year off, Ayres said. But infrastructure and networking advances make that prediction likely to be true this year.

In February, Amazon Web Services chose IGEL to provide the first Linux OS for connecting to Amazon WorkSpaces, the cloud leader's VDI service.

"Our belief is the world is about to change because Microsoft is getting serious about this space," Ayres said. "They have the ability to influence how people consume Windows because it's their product."

The rapid enterprise adoption of Office 365 should be an indicator of how fast Windows Virtual Desktop will be embraced.

Some enterprises already use IGEL's OS to run virtualized Windows instances by leveraging Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol, or Citrix or VMware virtualization protocols.

IGEL's latest OS platform is optimized to run at the edge. It's a 1.2-GB read-only system, agnostic to hardware and containing more than 80 embedded technologies.

The revelation of the project comes the same day that Citrix Systems, perhaps IGEL's most-important technology partner, introduced its own managed VDI service—a potential competitor down the road to Microsoft's offering.

IGEL has the largest presence of any partner at the Citrix Synergy conference that kicked off this week in Atlanta.

IGEL's technology "provides a clear path for customers to repurpose and extend the life of existing equipment," said Darin Cook, CEO of SynchroNet, an IGEL partner based in Houston that specializes in deployment of Amazon WorkSpaces.

Customers want to leverage existing equipment as they offer their employees remote desktops from cloud providers like AWS and Microsoft, Cook said.

IGEL's technology on local devices allows for minimal operational burden when consuming cloud-based desktops.

"The economics are a no-brainer," Cook told CRN.

IGEL's shift to focusing on its operating system clarifies its position and strong differentiation in the market, said Carl Gersh, vice president of sales and marketing at Forthright Technology Partners, an IGEL partner based in Miramar, Fla.

"IGEL realized that they're in the software business, an OS company, not a thin-client company, and they were first to recognize in this new world of Desktop-as-a-Service and intelligent workspaces you need an edge OS," Gersh said.

"They are the only company providing a true edge OS right now. Lightweight, secure and easily managed."

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