VMware Releases View 4

VMware is making a determined bid to get a grasp on the desktop virtualization market before competitors Microsoft and Citrix Systems can bring to bear their combined desktop expertise and entrenched advantages. The result is VMware View 4 announced Monday and generally available Nov. 19 for desktop virtualization.

November 11, 2009

5 Min Read
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VMware is making a determined bid to get a grasp on the desktop virtualization market before competitors Microsoft and Citrix Systems can bring to bear their combined desktop expertise and entrenched advantages. The result is VMware View 4 announced Monday and generally available Nov. 19 for desktop virtualization.

View 4 invokes a new version of Canadian startup Teradici's PCoIP protocol for PC display over IP networks. From a central server, View 4 can detect the end users network connection, whether a local or wide area network, then deliver a rich, multi-media display to the virtualized desktop.

PcoIP helps VMware overcome the latency that's been inherent in running desktops from virtual machines on central servers. The connection path has to be optimized for user content through the PCoIP protocol in order to give the end user an experience comparable to running his own machine.

Partrick Harr, VP of enterprise desktop marketing, said View 4 reduces the initial capital expense of desktop virtualization, which has been a stumbling block to adoption in the past. It has cost twice as much in capital expense to set up central virtualized servers with desktops and feed displays to end users as it did to simply equip end users with their own machines, he conceded. VMware hasn't cited such a figure in the past. With View 4, the virtualized desktop capital expense has been reduced to a match for the cost of a personal computer, Harr said in an interview.

Much of the gain comes from the greater ability of modern servers to run virtual machines. The reduction in cost is based. in part, on an estimate that the modern virtualized server, such as ones based onIntel (NSDQ: INTC) Nehalem chips, will be able to run twice as many virtual desktop machines as before.Each core in a Nehalem chip, also known as the Xeon 5500, not only has a faster clock speed but can run two processes at a time. The improvement is well adapted to the needs of running more virtual machines. Harr claimed instead of a typical eight virtual desktops running on each server core, there will be 16 in the future.

View 4 allows the flexible provisioning of thousands of desktops at a time. Desktops are cloned from a master image, or golden image, on a central server and personalized with settings retrieved for each individual. VMware is following the pattern of rebuilding each individual's desktop at the start of each day from a series of centrally managed parts.

An alternative is to store the entire VM on disk at the end of the end user's day, and reactivate it the next morning instead of rebuilding each day, but that move drives down the savings of desktop virtualization by increasing storage costs.

Under View 4, if the operating system used by thousands of employees needs to be patched, it's patched once on a central server, then distributed with the next creation of each individual's virtual machine. The same process would apply to end user applications, so technicians can upgrade software once at a central server, rather than traveling to each user's desktop and doing a one-at-a-time upgrade.

Savings materialize with desktop virtualization when it comes to annual end user maintenance. A virtualized desktop is half as expensive to maintain as a physical machine because it's being managed by the IT staff on a central server. Harr cited a frequently used estimate of $2,500 per PC as the annual cost of physical PC maintenance, with virtualization cutting the expense to $1,250.Desktop virtualization has stumbled in the past over what to do when the end user disconnects from the network. In the typical setting, there is no virtual machine running on the end user's desktop device; it's on a central server. If he disconnects, then his ability to do work is disconnected also.

In View 4, VMware has included a Hosted Offline feature that lets the end user collect a streamed down version of the virtual desktop to carry with him on disk and run a client hypervisor after he disconnects. When he reconnects to the network, his application data is synchronized with the central server, said Raj Mallempati, group product marketing manager, in an interview.

Desktop virtualization lags behind server virtualization in the data center, due to the broad set of problems an offered product set must solve. End users don't want to see a deterioration in their desktop environment by moving away from the performance of their individual machines. They also want the flexibility to become mobile and take their work with them. Harr said View 4 is VMware's first attempt to answer all issues at once.

He said the need to migrate end users to Windows 7 from Vista or Windows XP offers another round of opportunity to convince enterprise IT staffs to virtualize desktops. With virtualized desktops, they'll be able to preserve some individually preferred XP applications in virtual machines as the enterprise as a whole upgrades.

VMware is working with EMC (NYSE: EMC) and NetApp to hold down the price of virtualized storage to serve virtual desktops. A NetApp approach keeps the price at $40 per end user, an upfront acquisition cost that can be amortized over 4-5 years, Mallempati said.View 4 comes in two versions: Enterprise Edition is a one-time charge of $150 per concurrent user and includes vSphere 4 for provisioning and managing ESX hypervisor virtual servers; it can scale to manage 1,000 hosts and 10,000 virtual machines from a single console. vSphere includes Vmotion for moving server virtual machines from one physical server to another as well as the hypervisor. Also included in Enteprise Edition is View Manager 4 in View 4 provisions and manages end user desktop virtual machines.

View 4 also comes in a Premier Edition at $250 per concurrent user. It includes the components of Enterprise edition plus an updated VMware View Composer for building desktop virtual machine types and assigning them virtual storage, and ThinApp 4 for virtualizing end user applications on central servers.

VMware has worked with parent company EMC, Dell, NetApp and HP to produce reference architectures for desktop virtualization that include their products, simplifying choices that need to be made upfront, Harr said. Cisco is offering blade servers that can offload combined network and storage traffic from the distributed vSwitch of VMware's server virtualization, speeding I/O in the network fabric. HP has a similar offering.

InformationWeek Analytics has published a guide to the business realities of virtualization. Download the report here (registration required).

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