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The View: VMware Launches Key Piece of VDI Puzzle

VMware rolled out the centerpiece of its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) strategy today, with the release of VMware View 3.

VDI, also known as desktop virtualization and hosted desktop, involves delivering a user's desktop and applications remotely from a server, rather than the traditional method in which all the software resides on the user's computer.

VMware View 3 has a number of technologies that Palo Alto, CA-based VMware hopes will entice companies to consider VDI, including:

  • Composer. Composer is a provisioning technology that creates a master image and then clones end user desktops from that image. VMware claims that Composer uses up to 70 percent less storage space and eases patching and updating of desktops, since only the master image needs to be updated or patched; the fix is then applied to all desktops made from the master.
  • ThinApp. ThinApp is VMware's application virtualization product, which isolates applications from the underlying operating system and hardware, allowing multiple applications to run on a single server. ThinApp was the result of VMware's purchase of Thinstall last January.
  • Virtual printing. The main advantage of virtual printing is that it allows users to print to local or network printers without having to download drivers. This is done through technology incorporated from virtualization printing vendor ThinPrint.
  • Offline Desktop. VMware is calling this an "experimental" feature. Offline desktop is meant to overcome one of the major challenges of VDI: the need for some users to have applications and functionality when not connected to the network.

View 3 has two editions: Enterprise, at $150 per concurrent connection, includes VMware View Manager 3, for controlling the creation and management of View 3; and Premiere, a $250 per concurrent connection. The chief differences are that Premiere contains both Composer and ThinApp.

The VDI space has been much-discussed lately, and was a centerpiece of VMware announcements at last September's VMWorld conference. Despite all the coverage, however, desktop virtualization still remains largely a niche technology. It is still in its infancy, although aspects of it have been around for years with Citrix' Presentation Server (now known as XenApp) and Microsoft's Terminal Services delivering server-based applications to users. VDI is significantly more complex, and VMware's announcement is an indication that companies see the potential profitability.

The other major competitor in this space comes from Citrix, with XenDesktop. Microsoft is working on a VDI solution, but still steers customers to XenDesktop. Prominent blogger Brian Madden, who specializes in application and desktop virtualization, writes that both VMware and Citrix are battling for supremacy, and says that some features missing from View 3 have given Citrix an opening:

"...today, VMware has announced more than Citrix about their future VDI plans. But since they [VMware] just rev'ed their product and these features are missing, it's probably going to be awhile before we see this stuff from them. That's plenty of time for Citrix to announce their plans and start shipping game-changing features too."

A free trial of VMware View 3 is available from the VMware Website.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.

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