by Laurianne McLaughlin

VMworld: Desktop Virtualization Goes Much More Mobile

Sep 17, 20084 mins

VMware's VDI technology gives way to an upcoming group of products called Vmware View. The big news: users can move with their VMs from the office to the laptop and back. Meanwhile, rival Microsoft does some guerilla marketing with VMworld attendees.

VMware CTO Stephen Herrod gave the VMworld audience a peek at VMware’s near-term technology and product plans today, and while VMware continues to expand its management offerings on the server side, it’s also got big plans for the desktop, with a new set of technologies dubbed VMware View, slated to arrive in 2009.

Meanwhile, rival Microsoft, which made its formal virtualization launch earlier this month, showed up at VMworld to do some guerilla marketing to VMworld attendees in Las Vegas. Microsoft reps greeted VMworld attendees with $1 hotel poker chips on a card that read “Looking for your best bet? You won’t find it with VMware,” and pointed attendees to a Microsoft marketing site called

Asked about it a press briefing, VMware CEO Paul Maritz quipped “It’s what the follower does, not what the leader does. You do that when you’re a distant second.” He compared it to a time in the 90’s when Microsoft was chasing Novell: Microsoft arranged to have Novell product managers find pillow cases with the Microsoft logo on them in their hotel rooms during an event in Las Vegas, Maritz said.

VMware has found itself on the defensive with industry-watchers as of late, but the company painted a comprehensive, interesting picture for VMworld attendees of forthcoming technology improvements to products spanning from the server to the cloud to the desktop, the desktop being perhaps the toughest battleground with Microsoft and Citrix, especially among smaller businesses.

VMware already offers desktop virtualization of course, via its VDI technology. But today, the virtual machine lives on a server in the backroom and can be used with a thin client or office-based PC. VMware also offers other technology that lets you have a VM that stays on a laptop or desktop.

But users have no way to start with the VM on the server in the office and then take the VM with them on a laptop at the end of the day. View will solve this problem, says Bogomil Balkansky, VMware senior director of product marketing. “Customers want server to laptop,” he says.

Here’s how it will work: While the user is in the office, the VM runs off the server. When the user leaves the office, the VM is streamed down to the laptop. While away from the office, any time the user connects to the VPN, the changes to the VM are streamed back up to the server copy.

Instead of being stored on a laptop, the same VM could also be stored on a USB key, to be plugged into other devices.

This new vision of desktop virtualization will be possible thanks to a new client hypervisor that VMware demonstrated to the VMworld audience today and plans to ship in 2009.

The other advantage of this new desktop VM setup: administrators can set up a VM to expire after a certain number of days, or terminate access to the VM, both helpful options for companies that work with contractors.

VMware’s view technology will eliminate the need for a host OS for VMware’s virtualization technology; today someone using a VM on a laptop or desktop has Windows or Linux serving as that host OS. This change makes virtualization on the desktop look more like VMware’s ESX architecture for servers, Balkansky says.

Another change unveiled today that may intrigue IT departments is what VMware calls linked clones, or the ability to create clones of a VM. In a company with many virtualized desktops, the administrator can create a VM with the right apps and the OS, then clone just the apps potion for all of the users’ VMs. Those clones would simply point to the OS portion of the original.

VMware’s ThinApp technology wraps the applications in a bubble that’s separate from the OS, so the OS stays very clean. Patches only need to be applied once to the original.

“On the application storage side, this leads to enormous savings,” Balkansky says, because the OS doesn’t have to be stored over and over.

While IT departments continue to move more slowly on desktop virtualization than server virtualization, the ability to move a VM from the office to the laptop and back again is a crucial step forward for VMware.

In other news at VMworld today, Herrod announced that vCenter Server, the upcoming replacement to VMware’s Virtual Center suite of management tools, will be offered as a virtual appliance running on Linux. Today, Virtual Center runs only on Windows. This announcement drew the most applause of the morning from the audience.

The move should simplify configuration and installation for customers, as well as please those who have standardized on Linux and don’t want to run a Windows server just to run vCenter, Balkansky says.