Virtually Speaking: Sunshine for VMware

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted May 20, 2008


Sun used to be an easy target for snark and editorializing. Many a column was written about how its management seemed cocky and clueless, and the company seemed to stuck in the glory days mindset suitable to pre-Internet-Bust days.

VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure caught some rays -- Sun Rays that is. VMware is cozying up with Sun and 10 other thin-client vendors to bring virtualization to the desktop.

Times have changed, and those days are over.

Although Sun's understanding of open source seems clear as mud some days, it did sail on that ship, and it was busy planting seeds and embracing the green movement before most of the OEMs gave more than a cursory glance to power limitations that have become front and center in the past 12 months or so.

Sun also embraced the virtualization game earlier this decade, with the addition of LDOMs and Containers in the latest major version of Solaris.

Now Sun is partnering with VMware to bring its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution to the Sun Ray system. The Sun Ray is cool. Say what you will about thin clients, but there is much to love about popping a pluggable smartcard into your pocket rather than dragging a bulky laptop around.

On Monday, VMware made a number of announcements centered around thin-client developments and professional services. Among the news to come out of Palo Alto was a glimpse of an integrated desktop solution designed to leverage its VDI platform with Sun Ray Software and virtual display clients.

The Sun Ray system is an ideal candidate for VDI because it is already functioning as such.

Both models have the same end goal: streamline desktop management while reducing desktop TCO; increase the IT department's control; keep data secure; and enhance the user experience, flexibility and productivity.

The combined solution uses Sun's Appliance Link Protocol (ALP) to deliver VDI over networks with high latency. Both VMware and Sun needed to make some changes to create a truly blended solution. Some integration points along with other changes had to be made "so that they communicate with each other," Jerry Chen, senior director of enterprise desktops at VMware, told ServerWatch.

By all accounts, the tweaks accomplished what they set out to do, as tests to date show dramatic performance increases in WAN deployments, Chen said.

Although the solution was first announced Monday, it has actually been available for some time, Chen said. Any organization with a Sun Ray can buy the software.

The integrated solution is available for purchase directly from Sun as well as through various joint Sun and VMware Partners. Sun is providing first line support for the solution.

Just as Sun is hardly exclusive in its relationship with VMware, VMware is not particularly partial to Sun. And with Microsoft nipping at its heels, it would be foolish for VMware to hitch its wagon to a single horse.

Thus, it's hardly surprising that VMware also publicly launched a VDI certification program for thin-client vendors.

The new VMware certification program aims to do for the thin clients what its hardware certification program has done for servers. Since 2000, the company has worked with hardware companies to test and optimize products for VMware Infrastructure. To date, nearly 2,000 server and storage hardware models from 46 vendors are certified.

Chip PC, Computer Lab International (CLI), Devon IT, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, HP, IGEL, NEC, Pano Logic, Praim by CompuMaster, Sun Microsystems, and Wyse are the first crop of thin-client vendors to be harvested for the new program. The 11 thin-client vendors are listed in the VMware Certified Compatibility Guide. VMware certifies that their devices have passed its testing criteria for interoperability and quality assurance.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

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