The New Generation of Desktop Virtualization

Arthur Cole

Simple logic would dictate that the company or companies that have cornered the market of a particular enterprise technology would dominate the industry as that technology develops broader capabilities. In the case of virtualization, that assumption could be very wrong.


At the moment, server virtualization is dominated by the triumvirate of VMware, Citrix and Microsoft, all of which are seeking to extend their respective server and storage systems to the desktop. However, there is a growing cadre of desktop virtualization specialists -- small start-ups mostly -- that are staking out significant turf while the market is still young. And in most cases, they are doing so with relatively low-cost, software-based tools that in many ways outclass the approaches offered by the big three.


The most well-known of the newcomers is probably ClearCube, which has built a strong following with its centralized PC blade technology. The company recently spun off its software division to form VDIworks, which will concentrate on management systems governing the creation, deployment and oversight of virtual desktop infrastructures. The new company has signed an OEM agreement with ClearCube to deliver the VDIworks software as the Sentral VDI Management suite with the ClearCube desktop centralization platform.


Also gaining momentum is Qumranet, an Isreali company best known for its Kernal-based Virtual Machine (KVM) system for the Linux OS. The company is on the verge of releasing the Solid ICE system that uses centralized operating environments and remote rendering technology to accommodate up to 50 desktops on a single server -- far more than the major virtualization platforms offer. It also offers a template feature that can be used to share OS and application sets, relieving some of the central storage and management burden.


Still another approach comes from Ericom Software, which bills itself as the "simpler, faster and cost-effective alternative to Citrix." The company provides desktop virtualization and server-based computing capabilities using Windows Terminal Servers, blade PCs and legacy host systems. The company recently teamed with BOSaNOVA Inc. to bolster security and centralized management over applications and desktops.


And yet another newcomer is Xenocode, a provider of OS and application virtualization technology. The company uses pre-configured, executable code that can boot up anywhere on the network without setup, configuration, client or device drivers. The system also provides isolation from external DLL and dependency conflicts and can operate even on locked-down desktops.


If history is any guide, all these firms, or at least their technologies, stand a good chance of being swallowed up by one of the major players at some point. That would be fine as long as the truly innovative solutions still find their way to market in one form or another. Hopefully, the days of buying up competitors only to bury their disruptive technology are behind us. But you never know...

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May 16, 2008 1:34 AM David Karofsky David Karofsky  says:
Arthur,You do an excellent job of framing some of the latest technologies to come to market in the desktop virtualization space. Each of these vendors has interesting technology with different routes to market to help solve some traditional challenges of desktop computing. I couldnt help but notice that one vendor was missing from this write-up, that being InstallFree.InstallFree is focused on solving the challenges corporate IT departments have around application life-cycle management, centralized management, security and privacy and end-user mobility. The company provides application and desktop virtualization technology that has no dependencies on the host PC or data center environment. InstallFree uses unique virtualization technology to create virtual applications or a complete computing environment that can be accessed from anywhere via LAN, Web or USB storage device. Each virtual application is packaged with its own complete set of resources in order to function including Registry Settings, DLL files, Object Handlers and Shell Extensions enabling them to function as if they were installed in the OS on the PC. These virtual applications or desktops are never installed and do not require any agents or clients in order to function. They include their own private and internal set of account privileges that are completely separate from the hosts account privileges. This ability enables users to work on locked-down computers with complete user autonomy. The IT manager can grant the user administrative privileges while the host PC is left protected and safe under a limited account mode (Locked-down PC). Reply

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