In-Depth

Q&A: Blurring the Virtual Dichotomy

An interview with VMware's senior director of desktop platforms and solutions.

Jerry Chen is responsible for VMware's client- and server-based desktop virtualization products. He recently stopped by the Virtualization Review offices to speak with us about the company's desktop initiatives.

Virtualization Review: What are some of the key trends in desktop virtualization today?
Jerry Chen: Server-based virtualization has become increasingly popular. As more and more companies have standardized with VMware in the data center, they can take management and security tools like the recently announced Site Recovery Manager or Lifecycle Manager and apply them to the desktop. So we see the trend toward a data center where desktop service and applications are all virtualized. And the direction where we see desktop virtualization going is a merger between client side and server side. At our event [VMworld] in Cannes back in February we demonstrated a technology we're working on called offline VDI. This is the ability to stream the virtual machine [VM] from your server, check it onto your laptop, work offline and then check it back in. So with that scenario the dichotomy between client-side and server-side virtualization gets blurred. The direction we're going in is to intelligently identify where you're connecting and from what kind of device, and then, based upon your requirements or policies, you run it on the server via hosted desktop virtualization or on the laptop.

How does VMware view the thin- vs. thick- vs. zero-client scenario?
We support them all. Companies need to have a range of solutions depending on who they are, what hardware is involved and what the specific needs are. For a completely centralized scenario using server-hosted desktops, thin clients are great. You can connect to a Wyse or HP terminal for a virtual desktop, and that's a great way to reduce hardware management because thin clients have a long lifetime. But many users are going to want to connect from a home PC or they're going to need offline use. We support that as well. You can connect to a server-hosted desktop from a PC or in the future stream that desktop down to your PC.

"The Microsoft product doesn't support virtualized USB. We're doing work with virtualized 3-D graphics on the desktop side. They're not even close to that."
Jerry Chen, Senior Director of Desktop Platforms and Solutions, VMware Inc.

There are reasons why it's not one-size-fits-all. For example, I work in VMware from a thin client connected to my server-hosted desktop. When I go home I have my own home computer, which is a regular full client, and I connect to the same virtual desktop remotely from it. So really there's no one form factor that we support more than others.

If enterprise customers want to go thin client for management and power savings, that's a great direction to go in. But the virtual desktop needs to be able to connect to both the thin client and the PC. The beauty of it is flexibility-the end user is not just tethered to one device.

Are you running into Linux more these days as a desktop environment?
Customers are interested in it but we don't see a lot of deployments. We want to support all the different operating systems from Linux to all flavors of Windows. I think over time as more and more applications become decoupled, you'll see more Linux desktops, but most of the customers we talk to are still focused on Windows.

How do you compare with Microsoft in this market?
Microsoft has a couple of products in this market. Virtual PC is one which competes with our free VMware Player product that's client-side so it just runs VMs on your laptop or desktop. But they really haven't done much with that product over the years. With our Workstation and ACE platform, we virtualized USB 2.0. The Microsoft product doesn't support virtualized USB. We're doing work with virtualized 3-D graphics on the desktop side. They're not even close to that. So the innovation on the platform is still years behind where we are today.

About the Author

Tom Valovic is a freelance technology writer.

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