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Wanted: Virtual Desktop Services

Quoting Byte and Switch

What if the service provider that offers you online backup could provide ready-to-use desktop configurations, enabling you to set up and manage desktops and laptops without having to touch the users' machines?

If you think it sounds attractive, you're not alone. "We are seeing a lot of interest around desktop virtualization as a service," says Jerry Chen, director of enterprise desktop solutions at VMware. He says VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which runs desktop environments in ESX, can be used with thin clients to offer centrally managed configuration of desktops.

Others, too, say interest is growing. IBM Global Services, for instance, claims to offer services for virtual desktop setup and management. So does Citrix. And startup XDS just unveiled what it calls a "digital dial tone" service for enterprise desktop management.

Unfortunately, a bit of digging shows that most solutions are partial, and virtual desktop services are a long way off, thanks to a series of barriers.

"If you mean desktop virtualization as part of hosting or managed services... it has not taken off yet. There are barriers to it succeeding, mostly related to licensing," says Gartner analyst Mark Margevicius. While he acknowledges there's a lot of talk and some action around the issue, Microsoft hasn't budged sufficiently on licensing its operating software for use on virtual machines to make it economically feasible to offer virtual desktop services.

Microsoft has made some changes, and the business version of Vista reportedly works with virtual machines. But the customer must own those machines. There's no provision, Margevicius points out, for service providers wishing to extend ownership of VMs to their customers.

This hasn't stopped interest in managing virtual desktops within the enterprise. As noted in a recent report from Byte and Switch Insider, interest is growing in the security, cost efficiencies, and management control possible with desktop virtualization. This is true for products that allow a single PC to support multiple virtual machines and OSes, as supported by VMware Workstation or Parallels. (See VMware Unveils Workstation 6 and Insider Eyes Virtual Desktops.) VMware also offers its ACE Enterprise Edition for configuration of desktops and laptops that aren't always directly connected to the network.

Still, the goal seems to be the attainment of desktop management as a service. Right now, that's possible to some extent within an organization, even if it's not possible as a retail offering. Citrix's Desktop Broker for Citrix Presentation Server, VMware's ADI, and XDS's SIMtone VDU, for instance, are supposed to offer remote desktop configurations for local or remote use by corporate IT pros. They can be used with remote or thin client hardware or software from HP, Neoware, or Wyse, to name just a few.

Citrix's Desktop Broker also can be as a client broker with VMware's ADI. Users can log onto the Citrix software from the Web or Intranet and obtain terminal services for access to VMware ADI virtual machines. Other products that serve as desktop brokers come from Leostream and Virtual Iron. VMware has also bought a company named Propero to obtain client broker technology.

Products from XenSource can also be used with client brokers from Citrix and others to offer virtual desktops. And according to Simon Crosby, CTO and founder of XenSource, there will be more opportunities for this kind of setup as time passes, particularly if Microsoft refuses to cooperate with Intel's plans for virtualization in its chips.

"The new Microsoft software turns Symantec, McAfee, and similar packages into viruses," he notes. "And virtual machines offer another place to implement security outside of the OS."

Whatever is driving it, there appears to be plenty of interest in desktop virtualization. VMware, for instance, claims Bell Canada, Prudential UK, and WTC Communications are all using the vendor's VDI software.

But for the service offering, don't hold your breath. Unless and until Microsoft yields its stance on licensing, the only services you may see for desktop virtualization may come from inside the organization. Thankfully, prospects look promising on that front.

Read the original, here.

Published Saturday, June 09, 2007 10:15 PM by David Marshall
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