5 Ways VMware Plans to Beat Citrix With Project Horizon

In the desktop virtualization race, VMware goes with old advice: When you can't catch a competitor, change the rules. But Project Horizon extends far beyond the desktop as well.

By Kevin Fogarty
Wed, September 29, 2010

CIO — Before VMware's (VMW) VMworld conference in August, most of the anticipation focused on the expected announcement of greater cloud-management capabilities and the ability for end users to launch their own new virtual servers in the cloud or an ordinary data center .

In the days after, the focus changed to a SaaS- and cloud-based application provisioning application that could also change the way customers buy and distribute IT.

[Missed VMworld? Catch up with this look atVMworld's hottest products and our wrap-up of key cloud computing news from the show. ]

"Before VMworld there was more of a sense from VMworld that they were focused on servers and clouds and management," according to Ian Song, research analyst at IDC. "Right before, and especially after, you got the sense that they're focusing a lot more on integrating end user computing as not just being the virtual desktop any more. It's part of end-user computing as a whole&based in the cloud."

Right now desktop and server virtualization are still relatively separate from one another, and more importantly, separate from cloud, SaaS and other methods used to package and deliver virtualized technology, notes Chris Wolf, analyst with the Burton Group.

Citrix's lead in desktop virtualization, analysts say, is due to its long history with terminal-services remote-application viewing and the speed with which it was able to deliver products that allowed customers to virtualize an end-user's experience in a variety of ways. These range from viewing a Web front to an HR app on an internal Web site to streaming the OS, apps and user profile to a client based on his or her role or identity, not based on the hardware being used.

Rather than try to catch up on that front, VMware is treating desktop computing like any other application and building provisions for it directly into its cloud-computing architecture. This lets cloud customers choose their approach to virtual desktops in the same way that they choose task-oriented software that streams to their computers only at the time they need it, Song says.

"The challenge is really about managing the conversion from traditional architectures and delivery methods to this new picture where SaaS solutions could connect to applications published on a VMware app farm using a single sign-on component, and allowing IT to see and manage applications from many different sources, including XenApp or XenDesktop, and manage that from a single pane of glass," Wolf says.

VMware's Project Horizon—a still-developing product set that doesn't have a proper name or firm feature set—is designed to provide that integration of private and public cloud, virtual applications, and virtual desktops, delivered to a range of desktops, handhelds and other clients, all using rules and policies set by IT to protect data and make the best use of networks and resources, Song says.

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