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VMware Plays an ACE in the Virtual PC Game

VMware is shipping ACE, a PC virtualization product designed to protect corporate data and other electronic assets even when the work is being done offsite by outsiders.

As IT shops are increasingly pressed to yield fast-turnaround business results, more and more work is being handled by third parties. Outsourcing, off-shoring and contracting have become significantly more predominant in the virtual workplace than just a few years ago. So has telecommuting.

VMware officials say they saw a need for a product to protect all of that work product from spying or theft by others, as well as a need for IT to manage and control the work performed by those third parties.

ACE virtualizes all of the PC’s activities, encrypting everything and managing it as if it were the only thing running on the user’s PC. It virtualizes everything that the worker is doing and isolates it from anything else on the user’s PC, including providing copy protection controls for files and data.

The idea is to give IT shops a way to provide external workers with safe and easy access to enterprise resources from remote and guest PCs. ACE creates isolated PC environments that run on top of an existing PC and contain an operating system, enterprise applications and pre-configured security settings, according to a statement published by the Palo Alto, Calif. company.

“We’ve taken parts of our core [VMware] Workstation product and simplified the usage scenarios to direct it at basic knowledge workers, and we’ve wrapped a whole layer of security around it,” says Karthik Rau, director of product management.

ACE consists of two parts. The client component runs on the user’s PC.

“IT administrators get ACE Manager, an authoring environment that lets you define the ACE policies and create a package that can be installed on the user’s machine,” says Jerry Chen, VMware’s ACE product manager.

The product uses copy protection controls and encryption to prevent theft, tampering and unauthorized duplication of applications, data, system settings and files. IT managers can control system expiration, security settings, network settings, system configuration and user interface capabilities, according to the company. Users can work while either connected or off-line.

One analyst says that virtualization software will be a key technology for future IT models where computing is delivered as a utility – an aim of many in the industry for 15 years or more.

“[With ACE,] if I was using contractors, I could give them the software and access to my data, and when the contract expired, so would the software and data,” says Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software at researcher IDC. “That puts VMware ahead [of other virtualization products] in terms of management and control capabilities.”

Although ACE fits into only one of several categories that fall under the utility computing heading, Kusnetzky adds, it’s an important one,

The VMware ACE Starter Kit costs $995 and includes ACE Manager and four VMware ACE client licenses for end-user PCs. Additional VMware ACE client licenses cost $99 per PC.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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