VMware demos Horizon for workspace aggregation

VMware has fleshed out its desktop virtualisation strategy with products designed to make desktop computing more manageable

VMware has fleshed out its desktop virtualisation strategy with a suite of products designed to make desktop computing more manageable by using workspace aggregation.

As 30 June, 2014 – the end of support date for Windows XP – looms ever closer, IT departments need to migrate from their legacy desktop Windows platform. But while some CIOs may prefer to deploy the now mature Windows 7 operating system (OS), IT departments have more choice including skipping Windows 7 altogether. They can deploy Windows 8 or desktop virtualisation. Moreover, unlike in October 2009, when Windows 7 launched, supporting desktop IT has changed. Locking down corporate PCs and laptops is no longer acceptable for end users. They want to use their own software and often prefer their own devices.

“The dramatic influx of mobile devices and applications is quickly subverting existing IT policy and management,” said Brett Waldman, senior research analyst at IDC. “Modern solutions will need to have an integrated approach that holistically manages users, applications and devices to satisfy radically changing requirements to be well accepted by today’s IT organisations.”

VMware sees an opportunity to push its flavour of desktop virtualisation. “Migration to Windows 7 and 8, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and the cloud are challenging IT organisations with new complexities and risks,” said Boaz Chalamish, senior vice-president at VMware.

During the annual VMworld 2012 conference in San Francisco, the company demonstrated the alpha version of its Project Horizon initiative which supports new ways of delivering desktop computing through a technique experts call workspace aggregation. Due to be ready by Q4 2012, according to VMware, Horizon will offer a flexible corporate workspace in the cloud for mobile workers to connect from anywhere using any device.

Horizon provides a web management console which IT departments use to build a service catalogue containing company data and applications. It also holds information on a user’s environment (device, location and connectivity level). According to VMware, Horizon uses this information to control access to applications and data, based on location and the capabilities of the end user’s device.

Analyst Gartner categorises technology like Project Horizon as a workspace aggregator, which unifies the delivery of desktops (local, full hosted virtual desktops or published desktops), applications (software as a service [SaaS], Windows, and native mobile) and data through a single user interface. Other companies offering this type of software include Centrix and Citrix.

The dramatic influx of mobile devices and applications is quickly subverting existing IT policy and management

Brett Waldman, senior research analyst, IDC

In its Hype Cycle for Virtualisation report, Gartner noted: “Workspace aggregators will enable IT organisations to better manage and control access to applications being consumed by their users.

Basic functions such as audit, security, single sign-on, dynamic provisioning, and licence reclamation are some of the functions that get enabled through a workspace aggregator.”

However, in the report, Gartner analysts Terrence Cosgrove, Nathan Hill and Federica Troni warned that current workspace aggregator software was still quite immature and products offered limited application support. The analysts also raised concerns over licensing and security in the current generation of product.

VMware is also offering cloud-based desktop virtualisation, specifically for small and mid-sized businesses. It has partnered with Dell to deliver virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) bundles based on VMware View and certified Dell hardware.

Other companies providing preconfigured VMware appliances include Cisco, HP and Intel. Cisco announced it would offer support for VMware’s new vCloud Suite 5.1 product as part of its own Unified Computing Systsem (UCS).  The new vCloud offers what VMware describe as a software-defined datacentre architecture. This aims to abstract all hardware resources and pools them into aggregate capacity, enabling automation to safely and efficiently dole it out as needed for applications.

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