Virtual Desktops With Your Virtual Server?

storage server

At least that's what one startup vendor hopes solution providers will do.

Pano Logic, of Menlo Park, Calif., this week unveiled a desktop PC virtualization hardware appliance which the company promises will deliver a seamless and secure Microsoft Windows environment without the management hassles and power consumption of conventional PCs.

The company's desktop virtualization appliance is a small box which sits on a desk and consumes only about 5 Watts of power, or about 3 percent the consumption of a traditional PC, said Nick Gault, president of Pano Logic.

The appliance connects to a standard keyboard, mouse, monitor, and USB peripherals on the desk. It also connects to a server on which the virtualized desktop environment, including operating system, applications, I/O, and storage, runs.

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All the solution provider has to add is an industry-standard server on which the VMware hypervisor is running, Gault said. It can work with the entry-level VMware Server and with VMware ESX, he said.

While Pano Logic is just now coming to market with its first product, Gault is no stranger to virtualization. He is the former CEO of XenSource, which two weeks ago was acquired by Citrix in a $500 million deal.

Pano Logic wants to create an architecture purpose-built for desktop virtualization as such platforms as VMware, XenSource, Virtual Iron, and Microsoft Viridian become robust and affordable solutions for server virtualization, Gault said.

Most companies currently are repurposing existing technology for use in desktop virtualization, Gault said. "For desktop virtualization, you need the operating system running on a server," he said. "But network latencies are now under 250ms, which is faster than the human mind. Now we can attach the keyboard, video, and monitor over a network, and the user doesn't know the operating system is somewhere else."

Pano Logic's technology was designed so that most users do not need to purchase new servers, and in particular do not need to add any new server blades or any proprietary equipment, Gault said. "Think of all the software running on a common server connected over the network to a device with no CPU, drivers, or memory," he said.

Chris Chirgwin, CEO of LANSpeed, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based integrator and outsourced IT provider, did think about it and liked what he saw.

"We definitely see virtualization is where the industry is heading," Chirgwin said. "Server virtualization with VMware is a big deal. But we see more opportunities with desktop virtualization."

LANSpeed signed with Pano Logic about six weeks ago, and has already installed the technology in a regional bank and in its own offices, Chirgwin said.

"Pano is an extremely easy sell," he said. "We can go to the client and talk about significant savings and cutting IT support. These are real advantages. The primary benefits are simplification, reduction of IT costs, and easy management of all the desktops."

Software licensing does not change when implementing virtualized desktops, Chirgwin said. "If you are going to install 50 Pano devices and run 50 copies of Windows Vista, you still have to pay Microsoft for 50 copies of Vista," he said.

The best feature, Chirgwin said, is a little button on top of the Pano device that users can use to recover their systems. "Pressing it gives users a small interface pop-up," he said. "It lets them roll back to a previous point-in-time or to get a completely new desktop image if the old image is corrupted, all in less than a minute or two."

The Pano device is priced at $300, with a yearly maintenance cost of about $60 per year, for a perpetual license. Customers can also acquire the technology on a subscription basis at a cost of $20 per user, per year.

Chirgwin said it is very easy to show a customer the return on investment when using the Pano device, despite the fact that the initial cost for the first year is $360 plus the cost of the Microsoft software.

"Customers say they can go to Dell and buy a PC for that amount," he said. "But where they save money is a significant reduction in IT support. I can spend all day running from floor to floor fixing problems, killing viruses, and so on. But with Pano, you can have a standardized template for solving customer issues. And the users can solve many of their problems by themselves with the pop-up."

Virtualized desktop PCs are unlike thin clients, which Chirgwin sold for many years, because the thin clients still have moving parts, hard drives, and operating systems that need patches. "Pano has no moving parts," he said. "And if an employee walks out with a Pano Logic device, sure you're out $300. But you don't lose the data. and the employee can't use it anywhere else."

Chirgwin plans to use the Pano Logic desktop virtualization product in conjunction with server virtualization to set up a service under which customers, especially small businesses, can rent virtual desktops hosted in LANSpeed's data center. "We have smaller clients waiting for this," he said.

Dione Hedgpeth, vice president of alliances and services for Pano Logic, said the company may have a small direct sales business to start, but will quickly move to a channel-only model.

"Many solution providers have built expertise in server virtualization," Hedgpeth said. "Some are doing desktop management today. We want to extend their ability to manage the customer's infrastructure."

Pano Logic is looking for solution providers who also have professionals services expertise, she said.

The Pano Logic products will be exhibited at VMworld in San Francisco next month, with general availability expected by the end of September.