All Eyes Return to the Virtual Desktop

Perhaps it was the Windows 7 release, or perhaps it's because PCs are perceived as being less expensive than most data center gear, but much of the virtualization news in the past several weeks has focused on the client-side, and the virtual desktop seems to be a major part of this.

Virtually Speaking: VMware is expressing renewed interest in the virtual desktop. Microsoft has arrived there, and Xen is increasing its presence.

It was not surprising, therefore, that both VMware and Citrix announced enhancements to their desktop offerings this week.

VMware Monday took the wraps off of View 4, a desktop virtualization suite that runs on its vSphere platform.

Key among the feature enhancements is a PC-over-IP protocol that a wide range of key vendors, including Cisco, Dell, HP and IBM, have agreed to support. The protocol is designed to allow as desktop virtualization environments to function within a managed service model. In other words, VMware is expanding its footprint by going after the underpinnings of yet another market.

Key to this new protocol is a new alliance between VMware, its parent company EMC, and Cisco. The three are working together to offer an integrated, tested, validated and production-ready infrastructure package that covers everything from virtualization to networking software and hardware to storage, security and management applications.

Internetnews noted that the true value of View 4, is that:

... the new offering will go a long way toward assuaging a lot of IT administrators' concerns about virtualized desktop environments—most notably support and integration with key PC and networking vendors—and reduce the complexity and costs associated with running disparate operating systems in a virtual environment.

Citrx's news, although far less comprehensive, is no less important in the aggregate prominence of the desktop. For several years now, Citrix has been focused on the desktop. With VMware and Microsoft (though given Microsoft's tight coupling with Citrix, the threat is likely far less visceral) encroaching on its desktop territory, Citrix is upping the ante.

In October it released XenDesktop 4. On Monday it seasoned the offering with the launch the new Citrix Ready Open Desktop Virtualization program.

More than 10,000 products from more than 200 vendors have been validated as compatible for XenDesktop 4. Vendors on board include 10ZiG, AppSense, CA, Compellent, DataCore, Fujitsu, IBM, Sophos and Wyse.

If Citrix has its way, the bevy of apps, servers, storage systems, backup solutions, client devices, printers, desktop peripherals and so on will cover enterprises desktop virtualization needs from the data center to the device level, theoretically putting an end to the argument that the apps aren't there yet.

All of this sounds very well in theory, and with the end of 2009 fast approaching, it's only a matter of time before the "year of the virtual desktop" crown is dangled in front of desktop virtualization.

Will 2010 be the year of the virtual desktop? Maybe. But "the year of ..." is a tired phrase that is synonymous with mainstream but more often than not prompts mockery. (The year of the Linux desktop seems a perennial discussion, and the year of the netbook while relatively new,seems poised for repeat.) Some have already written up 2010 as the Year of the eBook. My prediction: 2010 will be the year of Running Your Linux-Powered Netbook as Virtual Desktop to Create a Best-Selling Ebook.

The virtual desktop is indeed on its way. It may not arrive in 2010, and it may never reach ubiquitous commodity status, and it may arrive quietly at an enterprise near you sooner than you'd think.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is the coauthor of Practical virtualization Solutions.

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This article was originally published on Nov 11, 2009
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