Windows Vista is having a major impact on desktop virtualization activity that extends far beyond Microsoft's announcement last week of new licensing deals that are more virtualization friendly. New to the market are a number of third-party virtualization solutions designed to take some of the pain out of massive Vista migration projects by delivering the same consolidation benefits to the desktop infrastructure that virtualization has brought to the server room.
One of the newest is the Citrix Desktop Server, capable of running either Microsoft's Virtual Server or VMware's ESX server. When the user launches a certain application, the system automatically configures a virtual machine with the right OS and application. The system can also tie in to a blade in the data center if more processing power is needed, or it can link up to Windows Terminal Services, which provides Vista apps for those still relying on XP.
Another new system is ClearCube Technology's Sentral 5.5, designed to simplify the management challenges between physical blades and VMware virtual machines. The company claims that its system allows you to provision virtual desktops across the enterprise while centralizing management, using Vista if you prefer, in the data center. The system is designed for VMware Server and ESX3, but features an abstraction layer for future virtual environments from Microsoft and XenSource.
And speaking of those new Vista licensing deals, there are some who think they are not all they're cracked up to be. This article from Computerworld argues that while the deals would benefit members of Microsoft's Software Assurance program, the rest could see increased costs over time. If you're streaming Vista to any number of thin clients, it might just be simpler to outfit them with hard drives and run it locally instead, depending on how aggressively Redmond enforces its licenses.
Still, with so much vendor activity surrounding the virtual desktop, it can be a chore to separate the good from the bad. This blog on Red Orbit at least offers a place to start. It's a rather long read, but it does offer a clean comparison between the top four DV solutions vying for marketshare at the moment: Microsoft Virtual PC, VMware Workstation 6.0 Beta 3, Innotek Virtual Box 1.3, and Parallels Workstation for Windows 2.2.
Just like the server and storage side of the house, there really isn't any reason to avoid desktop virtualization. At some point in the near future, you're likely to migrate to Vista or one (or several) of the competing operating systems. It's a question of handling it one machine at a time or centrally through a virtual environment.