Desktop Virtualization: Vendors Fight But Users Still Happy on Sidelines

Cisco, Citrix, Microsoft and a host of others keep dialing up the desktop virtualization talk, but most users are in no rush. Here's a look behind the latest wave of announcements and what's slowing down rollouts.

By Kevin Fogarty
Wed, November 17, 2010

CIO — There is so much competition for what computer companies perceive as a tremendous growth opportunity in desktop virtualization that the leading virtual desktop vendors have taken to re-announcing packages and products to highlight small improvements and garner some attention.

Brian Madden, an analyst who blogs on desktop virtualization at BrianMadden.com called yesterday's announcement of a Cisco/Citrix package deal the "new leader in the 'most press for the least actual product' race."

Cisco's Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI), which Cisco and Citrix jointly announced yesterday, is essentially the same product set the two announced in September as the Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solution with Citrix XenDesktop. The only new additions are two new thin clients designed in conjunction with Wyse , another that can take the place of a Cisco IP phone and a greater facility with videoconferencing using Cisco videophones, according to Cisco press materials.

[ For more background on what's holding up desktop virtualization, see CIO.com's "Year of the Virtual Desktop a Flop So Far". ]

VXI sells with a version of Citrix XenDesktop 5 configured to work well with Cisco's Unified Computing System, a combination of server, network and storage hardware designed as a modular building block for networks running resource-intensive, latency-averse applications like VoIP, video and virtual desktops.

Cisco is referring to the thin clients as its Cisco Virtualization Experience Clients.

Customers have to buy the Cisco and Citrix products separately, but Citrix includes templates and reference architecture to help create and manage profiles for the 300 or so users the VXI starter package supports, according to Natalie Lambert, director of product marketing for XenDesktop.

VMware (VMW) Joins the Party

A day after the Cisco/Citrix re-announcement, VMware re-announced the pairing of its VMware View virtual desktop product set with another Cisco SKU consisting of essentially the same product set as Citrix.

"The advantage is if you buy direct you get either Cisco or Citrix, or if you buy from a reseller we each commit to supporting the solution without the finger pointing, and with most of the hard work already done on the backend and the reference and networking architecture," Lambert says.

The package comes with templates to create the two most common kind of users, Lambert says: BPOP)" target="_blank">full VDI, or shared-OS on a shared host.

The thin clients also operate with Receiver, Citrix' virtual client for smartphones and other non-PC devices.

On the same day, Microsoft (MSFT) detailed its three-part view of client virtualization — isolating the user data and settings from the hardware by storing them elsewhere; isolating applications from the operating system by streaming them from the server; and isolating the user's whole OS by supplying a separate one to support incompatible legacy software.

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