The Virtualization Room

Jan 9 2009   12:59PM GMT

With VDI, has VMware barked up the wrong tree?

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

When it comes to the desktop, it’s clear that virtualization has a huge role to play. But is the desktop best served by VMware’s server-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) model? Some people don’t think so.

At Virtual Computer, a new startup in Westford, Mass., the thinking is that for desktops, the virtualization layer belongs directly on the client, in the form of a bare-metal hypervisor. There the hypervisor brings management benefits like simplified provisioning and patching of images, but without of the mobility and performance limitations of VDI, said Doug Lane, Virtual Computer’s director of product marketing and management.

When VMware announced its intention to deliver a client hypervisor for “offline VDI” this fall, the company tacitly acknowledged VDI’s shortcomings, according to Lane. Meanwhile, the company is still focused squarely on delivering the desktop from the server.

“With VMware, offline VDI is the niche case,” he said. But when Virtual Computer looks out at the enterprise, it sees a preponderance of laptops and thick clients. “Our model starts there, and we think that server-hosted desktops are the niche case.”

To that end, Virtual Computer is developing NxTop, a PC management suite pronounced “nextop.” It consists of a Xen bare-metal hypervisor called NxTop Engine optimized for laptop-class hardware and that runs Windows virtual machines. Those are managed by its NxTop Control console from which administrators can configure and provision images, set up access and protection policies, and the like. NxTop is currently in beta and is scheduled to ship by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

Without making a stake in the ground and validating one strategy over another, Gartner senior research analyst Terry Cosgrove agreed that there several  issues with hosted virtual desktops (Gartner-speak for VDI). “Hosted virtual desktops are an immature, adolescent technology” that won’t be ready for mainstream use for a number of years, he said. In the meantime, “there’s a place for alternative architectures to achieve the same thing – centralized management and control, but that gives users some autonomy.”

Cosgrove also said that several stealth-mode startups working on VDI alternatives will emerge over the next couple of months. There is also speculation that Microsoft and/or Citrix are developing client hypervisors of their own, and questions about which tack laptop OEMs like Dell and Lenovo will promote. One thing is clear, though: With laptop sales now exceeding desktop sales, those OEMs “are highly motivated to have a solution that will not prohibit the sales of laptops,” Cosgrove said.

4  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Rodos
    Um, I think this totally misses the mark on what VMware View is all about and its long term objectives. Of course their competitor is going to say such things. VMware have massive maturity and market leadership for a hypervisor on many platforms, Windows, MAC and Linux, plus bare metal (an an acquisition in the mobile space last year). Running the machine on any device including from the data center, with sync back to the data center is key. We need a competitive market so new entrants are good but if all they bring is a bare metal hypervisor to a single platform that not a huge difference to where we are now with out many of the long term objectives of what View will bring. Or am I missing something?
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  • Alex Barrett
    Has VMware barked up the wrong tree? My answer to this question would have to be no. VMware’s latest iteration of VDI (View) has made some very positive changes, enabling large and small companies the opportunity to overcome some of the shortcomings of the prior version. Specifically, this product makes excellent sense for healthcare and financial workforces that have individuals who float from office to office and workstation to workstation. I am by no means trying to indicate that View is the perfect solution. An excellent point is raised within this article… virtualization for the mobile workforce is an area where many companies are fighting to make their mark. I agree that VMware’s View offering may not be the best example for enabling the mobile workforce (laptop users) from a virtual perspective. The check in/check out feature that is in an “experimental” release will need some work, but is a good approach in concept. In my quick review of the NxTop site, I would have to say that this is the right direction for a solid desktop virtualization product and I would be interested in test driving the Beta version. Lew Smith www.interphasesystems.com
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  • Alex Barrett
    VMware is late to the party on this 'offline' VM feature. Our organization has been using VDIworks2Go from VDIworks. VDIworks2Go allows our users to 'checkout' a VM and 'check in' the VM when they are back in the office.
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  • Alex Barrett
    Has VMware barked up the wrong tree? My answer to this question would have to be no. VMware’s latest iteration of VDI (View) has made some very positive changes, enabling large and small companies the opportunity to overcome some of the shortcomings of the prior version. Specifically, this product makes excellent sense for healthcare and financial workforces that have individuals who float from office to office and workstation to workstation. I am by no means trying to indicate that View is the perfect solution. An excellent point is raised within this article… virtualization for the mobile workforce is an area where many companies are fighting to make their mark. I agree that VMware’s View offering may not be the best example for enabling the mobile workforce (laptop users) from a virtual perspective. The check in/check out feature that is in an “experimental” release will need some work, but is a good approach in concept. In my quick review of the NxTop site, I would have to say that this is the right direction for a solid desktop virtualization product and I would be interested in test driving the Beta version.
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