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Will Enterprise Desktops Go Virtual?

Hewlett-Packard is teaming up with VMware to give enterprises the option of re-centralizing. It's the prospective rollback of the client-server revolution.

Employees would be served their Office apps from a virtual machine in a data center. The app running on a virtual machine would have its interactions streamed to a user's thin client, or regular desktop computer. But the app logic would be performed on a server in a virtual machine.

"Here's a way to make sure sensitive information stays inside the company," says Doug Strain, product manager for virtualization for HP. If data isn't on a hard drive, it can't be lost through laptop theft.

HP Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is built atop VMware's Infrastructure, which manages multiple VMware Server and VMware ESX Server virtual machines. HP adds its own management software, such as Consolidated Client Infrastructure, which centralizes PC processing operations in the data center, and HP Systems Insight Manager, which centralizes storage management. Both have been available for years.

Initially, HP is only offering VMware's virtual machine software as the staging platform for end-user desktops. Strain says the company is looking into Microsoft's Virtual Server, but right now "VMware has more tools around it," such as VMotion, which allows a running virtual machine to be moved from one physical server to another without interruption. --Charles Babcock, [email protected]