VMware is rebranding its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology as VMware View, and having virtual desktops built from a generic golden master and user-specific files that cut VDI storage space by up to 80 per cent.
According to Jocelyn Goldfein, VMware's global manager for its desktop business, the vClient initiative, the company is saying: "The desktop is the next big frontier for VMware virtualisation." Desktop virtualisation can be as transformative as server virtualisation. "Users are no longer tethered to a desk and want their desktop to follow them" as they move between PC, thin client, notebook, Mac with a virtualised Windows or, potentially, a smartphone.
Currently VDI is used to build and store desktop virtual machines (VMs) or VDI images, with one per user desktop. This can mean having a thousand or more VDI images stored on the server's disks. With View, VMware is changing to a model where the common elements of the hundreds and thousands of VDI images are stored in a single central file, the golden master, which is a snapshot file. Then the unique elements of each VDI are stored in separate files called linked clones and served by the View infrastructure to end-point devices, which are not necessarily PCs.
Composing desktop images
Goldfein says desktop virtualisation preserves the richness of a user's desktop as they move between locations and devices and substantially cuts data centre costs. View Composer builds (composes) VDI images from the master and clones. View Manager provides central VDI policy management.
Tommy Armstrong, VMware's senior desktop product marketing manager, says that changes can be made to the single golden master which, effectively, alter all the VDIs instantly. He added: "We would like to move to idea of building a VDI like a web page," meaning constructing/composing it in real time from elements stored on VMware Infrastructure servers.
VMware's virtual data centre initiative is intended to build these private clouds. Its vCloud initiative is to build VMware technology outside the data centre. Through View, users get their desktop from a private cloud with their personal desktop information stored in the clones.
Asked if there was a Decho - EMC's combination of Mozy cloud backup and Pi personal information management - connection with View, Goldfein's eyes gleamed as she said: "Could be."
The idea of a user jetting around the globe and then wanting to fire up their own desktop environment on a PC or thin client in an office they are visiting has an obvious resonance with EMC's Atmos cloud storage concept with its distribution of files around the globe to provide faster, more localised access.
Enhanced desktop experience
View contains things like an enhanced Microsoft remote desktop protocol (RDP), application virtualisation, USB redirection so that the virtual desktop recognises that a USB device has been plugged into the end-point, and virtual printing so that a compressed Postscript printer file can be sent from the server to the local printer. This file would be sent to the end-point on a separate (virtual) communication channel with settable quality of service so that printing did not slow down the main desktop experience.
The enhanced RDP is able to use end-point computational and graphics processing resources to, for example, render graphic images on the end-point directly rather than have the server do it. This frees up server resources and enables increased virtual machine density on the server.
Certain users with enhanced PC hardware or software such as VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) would not have their desktop experience supported by View unless a VMware partner such as Wyse or NEC (for VOIP) supported it. Goldfein said: "VMware has to guarantee a baseline of good enough experience for the majority of users. But we're not in the hardware business and the very best experience will come from partners with this and we'll work with them. The baseline that comes out of the VMware box today is not good enough and needs developing."
The ability to store de-duplicated VDI images very space-effectively is a differentiation for 3PAR, HP's LeftHand Networks, and certain other storage vendors. This differentiation has just been destroyed by View as it by renders their functionality redundant. With View, VMware is effectively commoditising the storage attached to VMware servers.
View supports two desktop environments: Windows (XP or Vista) and Linux, but not Mac OS X as Apple does not want to play VMware's game. It can serve Windows to a Mac OS X machine running VMware Fusion but it can't run a Mac OS X VDI on any machine at all.
VMware's rate of development is unsurprisingly prodigious as it hears Hyper-V's winged chariot drawing near. View is the first iteration of a wave of desktop virtualisation with more to follow. By enhancing VDI in this way it is hoping that its desktop virtualisation becomes the norm in VMware shops and builds up a massive user base before Microsoft can get any Hyper-V equivalent established. That's the Reg view of the situation. ®