VDI's Complexities: Out of the Fog

Desktop virtualization is a new set of technologies. You can tell this because even the words we use to describe things frequently cause more confusion than they communicate -- we do not have a generally accepted terminology yet. The reality is that all new technologies go through this phase. Realistically, how could we have words to describe things that have not existed before?

Over time, the terminology matures and ultimately a set of best practices emerge that describe how the technology is best used. Championing clarity in these confusing times has long been a goal of mine. Consequently, I was delighted when, at the end of last year, a significant source of confusion disappeared. Here is what changed.

There are two very different approaches to desktop virtualization and we are in a period of transition between the two. The first approach was to keep and run a desktop image for each user in the datacenter -- effectively virtualizing the physical machine and running it on a server in the datacenter. While this reduced desk-side support requirements and can help security, it did not reduce the number of desktops components that require constant management. In fact, only minimal cost savings are achieved over traditional desktop PCs. Gartner confirmed this in a paper in October that concluded that this approach delivers only a 4-10 percent saving.

The newer, more efficient approach is referred to as "componentized," "pooled," "on demand" or "dynamic" (remember what I was saying about terminology earlier). In this model, the desktop image is split up into its components and assembled as needed for a user. In practice, this means bringing together a copy of the operating system, all of the user's applications and the user's personality on demand to give a familiar PC experience to the user. The benefits of this are that IT gets to standardize the operating environment to improve service levels and lower costs.

Up to now, the reality has been Citrix had a far better capability than VMware, and this led to confusion between the two solutions. With the release by VMware of View 3, however, the field is significantly leveled with both vendors having competitive features for delivering componentized desktops. Hence, a significant cause of confusion is removed and we can now concentrate on how we get most benefit from componentized desktops.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/27/2009 at 12:49 PM0 comments


Is VMware Really Targeting Telecom?

Don't you just love hearing predictions about what's going to happen 10, 15 or 20 years from now? As if we can figure out what's going come down the chute next Tuesday in the current economic climate. Technology acceleration is full of imponderables and progress is often marked by quantum leaps ... events that can change the game enormously in a relatively short span of time. Back in the day, no one, and I mean no one, predicted the full sets of impacts that the Internet would have on business, culture and just everyday life.

In general, the trouble with predictions is that they tend to make linear, more of the same, steady-state assumptions about where things are headed. Still, it's fun to hear them. Like this one: "By 2020, mobile phones will be the primary Internet devices for most people in the world." (Wow, digital divide, solved!)

iPhone momentum towards business markets is clear and undeniable as well as that of other devices. That's part of why VMware announced the acquisition of Trango back in November. The deal targets mobile phone makers as a new market segment for VMware. As mobile phones get smarter and become all-purpose devices accessing desktop information, they will become an even more important market. Add to that the Gartner prediction that, by 2012, over half of all smartphones being shipped by suppliers will be virtualized and you can see why VMware made the move.

When the announcement came out, the biggest question in my mind was whether the company would continue to go after core telecom customers or put more emphasis on IT players like Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android) who are busy trying to reinvent the very notion of what a mobile handset is and does. But during a recent visit to our offices I asked Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's Sr. Director of Marketing, this question and he confirmed that the traditional telecom market is definitely on the radar screen.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/26/2009 at 12:49 PM0 comments


Why VMware and Teradici's VDI Protocol Is a Threat to Citrix

I had an insightful discussion yesterday with Stuart Robinson over at Teradici. I wanted to speak with the company for a feature I’m working on about its partnership with VMware, announced at VMworld back in September. The discussion led me down some of the slightly tortuous technology pathways associated with display protocols. (This stuff is not for the faint of heart and I'm as much of a gearhead as the next guy.)

Stuart filled me in on the details about PC-over-IP, the company's display protocol, the crown jewel that led VMware to pursue the co-development and licensing deal. But one item that grabbed my attention had to do with network performance. Generally, display protocol performance improvements can focus on one of three areas: host processing, client processing and what happens in between (i.e. the network). One of PCoIP's sweet spots is that it has an embedded optimization algorithm for dynamic adjustments to network performance. Teradici claims that this is something that Citrix ICA simply can't do.

The deal with VMware involves perfecting this LAN/WAN optimization feature even further. In terms of competition with Citrix, this is a big deal since ICA, as good as the protocol is, is not optimized in this fashion (or so claims Teradici). More to the point, Citrix has an array of products that it sells to address LAN/WAN optimization, the implications of which should be fairly obvious.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/21/2009 at 12:49 PM1 comments


Which Management Tools Get the Most Use?

I feel like a stuck CD harping on management tools as much as I have been this year but, let's face it -- it's where a lot of the real action is in virtualization right now and through 2009. The trouble with making VMs is that it's a little too easy. Tarkan Maner, CEO of Wyse, says that he has run into plenty of CIOs that just don't get the need for a full, top-down planning approach to virtualization.

Too often the approach is: Let's take a few of our IT guys and dub them the VM team while saying "go forth and virtualize." Mark Bowker from analyst firm ESG describes this trend as "virtualize first, optimize later." In any event, here's some good survey data from IDC on which management tools are getting the most traction in IT shops these days. In order of usage, they are:

  1. Patch Maintenance
  2. Server Deployment/Provisioning
  3. Optimization/Workload Balancing
  4. Systems Recovery and Backup
  5. Health Monitoring
  6. Disaster Recovery
  7. High Availability/Failover
  8. Analysis/Troubleshooting
  9. Security
  10. Capacity Planning
  11. Migration Tools
  12. Dynamic Load Optimization
  13. Power Management
  14. Application Matching
  15. Chargeback

How does this rank ordering square with your experience using some of these tools? Post here or shoot me an e-mail.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/19/2009 at 12:49 PM1 comments


Predictions: The Return of Diane Greene

Everybody's making predictions so I thought I'd jump into the fray. When I was an analyst, cranking out predictions this time every year was part of the job so it still seems second nature. So here's my two cents:

  1. Diane Greene will resurface with a new company that will be focused on virtualization management and automation. (Ok I had a little inside info to help me out with this one, but the management piece is very much my own bit of crystal ball gazing.)
  2. There will be increasing friction between VMware and partners over systems management as the company moves ahead aggressively to develop additional management tool sets and capabilities to support the roll out of VDC-OS products and the so called dynamic data center.
  3. HP and/or IBM will acquire a virtualization management startup this year. There are a rather impressive number of management startups in the market right now. (We've been profiling a few here on the Web site such as Bluestripe Software and Netuitive)
  4. Citrix will begin to steal market share from VMware in VDI. This won't be a coup so much as a slow steady erosion as Citrix starts looking to convert some of its XenApp base to more comprehensive XenDesktop solutions. Citrix isn't interested in cannibalizing its XenApp business, a key element in its strong desktop franchise and a business that many other key products (such as Netscaler) depend on.

Tell me if you agree or disagree with any of these predictions. Post here or shoot me an e-mail.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/18/2009 at 12:49 PM0 comments


Survey: Microsoft Ahead of VMware in Application Virtualization

Analyst Laura DiDio used to cover virtualization for the Yankee group but now has her own outfit, ITIC. (Fun fact about Laura: At one point in her career, she was an on-camera reporter for CNN). ITIC and Sunbelt Software recently published the results of a joint survey that covered (among other things) application virtualization. The survey methodology involved tapping C-level executives and admins at 700 companies with 85 percent of responses coming from North America. It was followed up by customer interviews for validation.

A couple of interesting data points emerged on the subject of application virtualization. In terms of (admittedly) early market share, Microsoft's App-V is ahead of the pack, leaving VMware ThinApp in the dust by a 2-to-1 margin. Also (and no surprise here, really), it's still early days for application virtualization with the rate of adoption trailing that for server virtualization. Of the companies surveyed, 62 percent have not even begun to deploy it in production environments nor have they completed the vendor selection process. Finally, the survey contends that demand for application virtualization will remain high even as the economy continues its duck-dive.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/14/2009 at 12:49 PM0 comments


France Telecom Offering DaaS for SMBs

When Tarkan Maner, President and CEO of Wyse, and Jeff McNaught CMO, stopped by our offices in Framingham to chat, they mentioned a very interesting deal the company recently completed with France Telecom. Citrix is also involved with its XenDesktop product.

Basically FT is going to provide desktop as a service using thin clients and targeting the SMB market (e.g. law firms and accounting firms with 100 or fewer employees). Maner also told us that Wyse has got something going with Google and the Aussie carrier Telstra on the consumer side but pointed out that activity here in the U.S. has been sluggish by comparison.

I've blogged before about telecoms getting into DaaS --- startups Desktone and Simtone are both players in this market. There are also forays into cloud computing by companies like AT&T. But here's the thing. Do you really want, say, Verizon or AT&T providing your raw compute at home? The answer is: It depends. It depends on who you are, what you need in terms of applications, cost (of course) and how well the telecom designs, markets, maintains and supports the service. And that's a lot of hurdles for a carrier to cross to get to a winning strategy.

Would you buy DaaS from a telecom or recommend that someone else do it? Better yet, the skeptic in me would love to hear from anyone who enthusiastically supports this business model. Post here or shoot me an e-mail.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/12/2009 at 12:49 PM5 comments


Virtualization and the Economy

The conventional wisdom about the impact of the economy on virtualization is that companies will being looking to cut costs and therefore will turn to server virtualization because of an immediate and straighforward ROI hit. But not so fast, says analyst Rachel Chalmers of the 451 Group. In a recent report, Chalmers points out that a lot of the low hanging fruit has already been picked off, at least in terms of the Fortune 500. Going downstream to the SMB level, the ROI won't be quite as easy to realize.

Overall, however, analysts like Pund-It's Charles King believe that "sales of IT solutions which enhance the performance of existing tech assets ... will remain relatively brisk." He includes virtualization (presumably all forms) and data de-duplication in this category.

So what about other types of virtualization? Hosted desktop won't be a short term ROI play but could make life easier for IT departments in terms of security and maintenance and, over time, the long lifespan of thin clients (10+ years) coupled with major savings on desktop maintenance will be attractive. (Trouble is, companies don't always have the luxury of thinking long-term these days.)

Here's another interesting angle on the economics of hosted desktop. According to Bernard Golden, a CIO magazine survey found that 46 percent of companies will defer replacing desktop PCs in the next several years. Golden goes on to point out that both Vista and Windows 7 "require a significantly larger hardware footprint than XP does. Consequently, there's a collision course between the operating system of the future and the hardware of the present -- which presents an enormous opportunity for client virtualization." The clear implication for VDI is that if an existing desktop PC can’t easily run Vista or Windows 7, it becomes a great candidate to use as a rich client for a move to VDI.

What do you think about the economy's impact on virtualization's great forward momentum to date? Post here or send me an e-mail.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/11/2009 at 12:49 PM0 comments


Microsoft, Marathon Deal

I'm just going to make a quick mention of this because, hey, it's Microsoft. Redmond has announced a deal with Marathon, a Massachusetts-based company that provides fault tolerant, high availability software for Windows Server environments and competes with Stratus. In 2007 the company started going after the market for virtual servers and now also supports Citrix XenServer. The deal is going to allow Marathon to resell Windows 2000 and Exchange 2000 products. Both companies will also work more closely together to optimize customer solutions that go after the main value prop for FT, reducing downtime and data loss. (Up until now, the company hasn't really had a formal relationship with Redmond, interestingly enough.)

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/09/2009 at 12:49 PM0 comments


Use Your iPhone for Virtualization Management?

Apple has reportedly now become the world's third largest mobile phone maker behind Nokia and Samsung. It's a rather amazing and meteoric rise and one of the best examples I know of the powerful and paradigm-shattering convergence of IT and telecom. But did you know that you can now use your iPhone to manage a virtualized environment?

Integrien is a startup company that competes with Netuitive, BMC and, to a lesser extent, Akorri. Like Netuitive, the company offers analytics software that baselines and correlates the performance of virtual and physical machines, performs root cause analysis, predicts performance degradations and, depending on the results, sends alerts to an IT admin. According to vice president of sales and marketing Steve Henning, this capability avoids what he says is an all too frequent occurrence: the all-hands bridge call involving different siloed groups. When database, network, server or application server admins get on calls like this, Henning says it often involves more fingerpointing than actual problem-solving.

Back in November, the company unveiled an iPhone option. It worked with Apple to develop the application, and the product is currently shipping. The configuration setup is similar to a Blackberry BES in that an Integrien server has to run in the data center.

Is this a capability that you would find useful in your IT shop? Post here or send me an e-mail.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/06/2009 at 12:49 PM2 comments


Citrix Takes Aim at VMworld

VMworld is currently the virtualization industry's vendor and customer magnet and must-attend show. Although vendor-sponsored, VMworld encourages competitors to attend and, on that basis, has become the industry's defacto main event. But in the increasingly competitive world of virtualization, that may be changing.

In a recent blog, Simon Crosby, high-profile Citrix CTO and spokesman, explains how and why the company has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet and decided to go after VMware’s longstanding franchise. Basically, Synergy -- to be held in Las Vegas on May 4 -- will include Virtualization Congress 2009, an independent virtualization conference run by virtualization.info. The event is also aligned with Network World Live!

It’s a strategically smart and interesting move. Crosby describes it as the "industry's first vendor neutral virtualization conference" and writes:

Alessandro's goals for the Virtualization Congress are to make it the industry's premier showcase for virtualization technology, products and business strategy. If you're under the illusion that VMware's VMworld serves that purpose today, you probably also failed to notice that at VMworld even gold sponsors (like Citrix and Microsoft) are only offered one opportunity to present at the conference, and that 99 percent of the sessions are dedicated to VMware's technology and products.

Indeed at VMworld in Las Vegas in 2008 I found that my session was somehow miraculously scheduled to occur in the last hour of the last day in the meeting room furthest from the elevators and escalators, and with barely enough seating. The Microsoft folks complained of similar treatment.

He then goes on to say that Citrix will take a different tack and will, with deliberate intent, have no influence over the Virtualization Congress program. Pull up a lawn chair, folks, this one's going to be interesting to watch.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 01/05/2009 at 12:49 PM0 comments


Talking with Virtual Iron CEO Ed Walsh

Virtual Iron has had some problems with management turnover but it doesn’t seem to have affected sales. I recently spoke with CEO Ed Walsh about what kinds of results they've been having and future plans. In early December, Virtual Iron announced an 130 percent increase in third quarter revenues over last year. It also announced expansion of its partner ecosystem, which currently includes Lifeboat, Zycko, Promark, Lefthand Networks (HP) and the IBM New Enterprise Data Center Alliance. The same release also said that Tech Validate, an independent third party, surveyed more than 400 Virtual Iron customers and more than half of respondents cited fullness of feature set, ease of deployment, quality of technical support and training and affordable price as key selection criteria.

Ed Walsh told me that the company believes it beats VMware on some of those survey intangibles that can make or break a deal. As an example, he cited tech support and training, pointing out that VMware requires customers to travel for four days of off-site training, whereas Virtual iron has their training optimized for an online experience. (I'd have to agree that, in the current economic climate, this makes a lot of sense.) Another interesting data point: The company, which is geared towards server virtualization, is apparently not seeing much of Citrix (XenServer) competitively (both products are Xen-based.) In terms of the roadmap for 2009, the company is working on OVF standardization and bringing higher levels of scalability into their platforms. But one thing Virtual Iron will have to do, given increasing levels of saturation by the big three, is ramp up its marketing efforts. Surprisingly, there's no one currently listed on their Web site as VP of Marketing, a curious omission.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 12/29/2008 at 12:49 PM0 comments


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