VMware and the Virtual Desktop

Arthur Cole
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Having all but cornered the server virtualization market over the past decade, many industry watchers have wondered how long VMware would be content to play second fiddle in the virtual desktop space to Citrix.

But while expectations generally trend toward some form of broad stroke on VMware's part to launch its VDI platform into the lead, the reality is that the company seems content to play small ball for the moment. Over the past few weeks, the company has made a number of key announcements aimed at shoring up its virtual desktop capabilities at a time when interest in the technology is regaining some steam.

Probably the most significant development of late is the opening of a new application portal and updates to the View platform that create a centralized repository for storage and collaboration. Combined, the package is aimed at streamlining the ability to integrate tablets and other mobile devices - the process known as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) - into broader IT infrastructure while still maintaining administrative control over the data environment. View 5.1 also provides a more advanced server memory cache function as well as an enhanced Personal Management migration module that aids in the transfer and synchronization of data between physical and virtual desktops.

Meanwhile, VMware is furthering its relationship with Riverbed to foster virtual environments across multiple cloud services. Part of the collaboration centers around a new PC-over-IP protocol that Riverbed gained from its own partnership with Teradici. The system has emerged as a key component in VMware's ability to provide View environments across long-haul network infrastructures while maintaining desktop performance and responsiveness.

At the same time, additional partnerships are zeroing in on other aspects of the virtual desktop experience. Nexenta Systems, for example, will likely play a key role on the View platform's future through its ability to streamline the deployment process. The new NexentaVSA for VMware View integrates directly into vSphere and vCenter Server to provide real-time analytics, troubleshooting and monitoring of View deployments. The package allows enterprises to correctly size, configure and scale storage infrastructure to accommodate added VDI traffic, which has emerged as a major stumbling block for enterprises looking to build wide-scale virtual desktop environments.

And since security is always a top concern in any enterprise endeavor, VMware is reaching out to new partners to shore up View's defenses. One of them is Catbird, which provides the vSecurity automation platform for virtual desktops. The tie-up provides tools like template-driven deployment, automated policy management and zone isolation to prevent sensitive information from reaching unauthorized desktop images. It also provides a compliance module to ensure conformity to established standards like PCI 2.0, HIPAA and DIACAP.

VMware, and its rich uncle EMC, certainly have the means to load the View platform with all kinds of goodies to produce a compelling VDI solution, and having such a large installed base of virtualized servers doesn't hurt either. And yet Citrix has made a name for itself through the simplicity of its design and its low cost of operation.

If VMware truly wants to rule in the VDI space, it might want to give more thought to streamlining its footprint than adding even more bells and whistles.

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