Despite the prospect of losing its dominance in the server virtualization market to Microsoft and Citrix, VMware is pulling no punches when it comes to extending the technology further into the data center.
Following the textbook rule that a good defense is a strong offense, the company is moving quickly to bring desktop virtualization from the lab into production environments. Development of the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is ongoing, but the real effort at the moment is establishing third-party relationships aimed at smoothing out many of the deployment issues.
At VMworld, the company announced its vClient Initiative, to establish a "universal client" that will be available to users from any end point. The initiative coincided with the release of the VMware View suite that allows the VDI clients to run on any laptop or desktop.
Forging ties to client hardware is a key element of the strategy, which is why VMware recently inked a deal with Sun Microsystems to bundle the Virtual Desktop Manager with the Sun Ray thin client. The move gives VMware a wedge into the Sun Ray installed base, where it will compete with Sun's own Virtual Desktop Connector and VDI software, while Sun will be able to tap into the growing legions of VMware customers as a certified VMware solution.
And considering that networking is a key component of the virtual desktop, developments like LeftHand's SAN/iQ 8 are a welcome sight. The system features a tool called SmartClone Volumes that streamlines virtual desktop deployments by replicating volumes and data sets without having to add storage to ease multiple system images. The idea is to allow both servers and desktops to be booted from iSCSI SANs.
VMware also is eager to show the VDI platform in action. One showcase will be the NEC Virtual PC Centre, which is expected to control some 20,000 thin clients throughout NEC's worldwide network by the end of the year. NEC officials say more than 12,000 clients are already deployed under a management staff of three. The company says it expects to cut desktop costs nearly in half.
Most experts will tell you that it is not possible for a virtual system to provide the same experience as a local desktop. But the flexibility and savings involved will make it hard to resist for very long. In the battle between user preferences vs. the bottom line, expect the bottom line to win every time.