Forget desktop virtualization, here comes user virtualization

Tranxition's AdaptivePersona software helps IT managers maintain virtualized PCs

A management software vendor has released software that it said helps IT managers oversee and maintain the "personalities" of virtualized desktop PCs.

Tranxition Inc. said its software, called AdaptivePersona, saves labor and storage resources for IT administrators, and keeps employees happier and more productive. The Beaverton, Ore. firm plans to show off the software at the VMworld show in San Francisco next week.

The little-known, 25-employee firm has been around since 2000 and has a small family of software called LiveManage, which helps corporate desktop administrators preserve the data and settings on workers' PCs as they are migrated to new hardware or upgraded operating systems.

According to Amy Hodler, director of product management for Tranxition, LiveManage has been deployed to more than two million PCs.

AdaptivePersona is in many ways an extension of LiveManage, but is focused on virtual desktops.

Desktop virtualization, at least in the corporate environment, involves virtual machines stored on central servers and streamed out to end users' PCs.

This makes the client computers easier to manage, update and make secure, according to virtualization advocates. Unlike older solutions such as Microsoft Corp. or Citrix System Inc.'s terminal services, the virtualized desktops feel to end users almost like full local desktop PCs -- something that's key to gaining employee acceptance, said Mark Bowker, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group.

The problem is that would require a full virtual machine with all of the user's Web cache and passwords, Outlook e-mail .PST files, instant messaging history, Microsoft Office files and customized Windows settings. Those VMs can become big and slow, said Hodler, and complicated to manage.

"If you give each user a personalized desktop, all of a sudden you have to store and manage 5,000 user desktops," she said. And if the personalities are "interwoven into the applications and OS, it becomes very difficult to upgrade them without impacting the user."

AdaptivePersona simplifies that by "putting a bubble" around the user's desktop history, and extracting it into its own separate layer, Hodler said. This allows IT managers to maintain just a few virtualized images, upon which they can layer the employees' personalities.

Those personality files are relatively small, said Hodler, citing her own 2GB file, which includes all of her data files, Outlook e-mail archives and "a little bit of music."

Actually, said Bowker, two of the leading desktop virtualization players, VMware Inc. and Citrix, already "have the ability to separate the user profile, applications and the OS." These components are re-assembled every time the virtual desktop is streamed out to a user.

AdaptivePersona goes those vendors one better by "maintaining application customization settings such as toolbars and different views," Bowker said. "The bottom line is that the desktop computing environment is targeted for improvement and Tranxition has technology that can help improve IT management and maintenance of the desktop computing environment while maintaining user experience."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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