VMware bolsters its View desktop virtualization product

VMware on Monday is unveiling the newest version of its desktop virtualization platform, VMware View, with a new remote desktop protocol designed to improve user experience.

VMware View 4.0 uses the PC-over-IP protocol, which "compresses, encrypts and encodes the entire computing experience at the data center and transmits it 'pixels only' across a standard IP network to stateless PCoIP-enabled desktop devices," explains Teradici, which licensed PCoIP to VMware.

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VMware officials say the technology will deliver great-looking desktops even in low-bandwidth scenarios.

"PCoIP is a server-centric protocol, meaning that we are doing the majority of the graphics rendering and processing on powerful servers," VMware's desktop team wrote in a recent blog post. "Compressed bitmaps or frames are transmitted to the remote client. This division of labor has some ideal properties for static content. First it's making use of the powerful processing capabilities of multi-core servers such as Intel's Nehalem to render the graphics. More importantly, by transmitting compressed bitmaps or frames, we can adjust the protocol in real time to account for the available bandwidth and latency of the communications channel."

For users on a WAN connection with low bandwidth and high latency, a "less crisp image is produced" at first, allowing for fast loading times. Then the image is sharpened into higher resolutions.

PC-over-IP offers excellent performance and graphics support, says Burton Group analyst Chris Wolf. One caveat is that PCoIP has trouble integrating with WAN accelerators such as Riverbed's appliance, but VMware is working on the issue with Riverbed, according to Wolf.

VMware View, which includes the vSphere server virtualization platform, will be generally available next week. The enterprise and premier editions are priced at $150 and $250 per concurrent connection, respectively.

Total upfront costs, including client devices, back-end storage and servers, are $600 to $800 per virtual desktop, says Raj Mallempati, director of desktop product marketing for VMware.

That's similar to the price of a typical PC, but virtual desktop implementations should extend the life of user devices and reduce management cost, Mallempati says. VMware says its new desktop virtualization software will allow "flexible on-demand provisioning of thousands of desktops and applications instantaneously"; feature the ability to support multiple operating systems' improved security; and enable management of thousands of desktops from a single, centralized administrative console.

Other features include automatic provisioning of storage, network and compute resources based on demand; standardized templates to "streamline desktop management and enforce consistent policies and permissions"; instant updates, patches and changes for users; and support for multiple user scenarios including offline access.

VMware's announcement comes one month after Citrix released the fourth version of XenDesktop.

VMware still has some gaps to close, Wolf says. He urged the vendor to improve integration with application delivery platforms such as Citrix XenApp and Microsoft Terminal Services, and to improve performance for remote desktop users in far-flung locations. Many companies would like to implement desktop virtualization for remote call centers in India, for example, but believe the performance isn't strong enough yet, according to Wolf.

Some customers are frustrated that vendors are spending more time talking about HD graphics than addressing more immediate needs, he says.

Mallempati insists VMware is focused heavily on user experience, but Wolf says, "I think VMware needs to do a little bit more."

This story, "VMware bolsters its View desktop virtualization product" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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