VMware customers will be disappointed to learn that not only will the next generation of the company's virtual desktop software be late, but VMware also dropped the profile management feature from RTO Software.
VMware View 4.5 beta users recently noticed that the profile management features that VMware Inc. gained through its RTO Software acquisition in February were not included in the second beta, which was launched June 16. They have not received an explanation about the changes from VMware.
This is something they promised to have in the release, people counted on it, and to pull it out at this point, it's indescribable.
VMware did not respond to requests for comment, but numerous sources close to the company said the RTO Software component VMware promised to include in 4.5 was put on ice because of incompatibility issues with Windows 7, and it will not be included in the general release.
VMware also planned to release View 4.5 by July 14, but it will now only say that general availability is "sometime this year." And sources said the delay stems from significant compatibility issues with Windows 7 and multiple bugs surrounding graphics and the PCoIP protocol.
Users, partners react
The combination of removing RTO Software with the hazy release timeframe has angered customers who must reconsider their rollout plans -- IT consultants who now must postpone their work, and resellers who will take a hit on revenues.
One virtual desktop expert with a major IT consultancy in New England said he has five VMware View 4.5 beta proof-of-concept projects underway and he was stunned to learn from VMware developers that VMware had yanked the profile feature. He wanted to remain anonymous because he still hasn't figured out how to tell his customers.
"I am struggling with how to deal with this, because people were excited about it getting RTO," he said. "Now, I have to tell them if they want to move forward with View, they'll have to buy something, and the cost just keeps going up and up."
Pulling core features out of a beta between releases does happen -- but it's unusual.
"This is something they promised to have in the release, people counted on it, and to pull it out at this point, it's indescribable," he said. "It's left a lot of us hanging."
Tony Wilburn, a VMware consultant familiar with View 4.5, said when he first tested the RTO profile feature in the initial beta, he wondered how he'd been living without it for so long. Now, he'll have to keep making do.
"It's definitely disappointing," said Wilburn, who echoed the sentiment that losing the feature would just pile on the extra cost of third-party software to an already expensive product.
RTO Software provides the personal touch
Profile or personalization management software gives IT pros a way to deliver personalized virtual desktops to end users, and since end user experience is one of the most common reasons VDI projects fail, administrators and CIOs count on profile management software to deliver the best experience possible.
"Persona management can make the improved user experience a reality," Wilburn said. "Without it, a pooled VDI environment doesn't have the same appeal."
Integrated profile management would help VMware and View 4.5 compete with Citrix in the desktop virtualization market, as Citrix already includes a basic profile management tool, User Profile Manager, in its XenDesktop offering.
"If VMware wants to compete [it has] to include profile management," the New England-based consultant said. "Instead, we'll be offering customers other products, and [RTO] will be out."
Without RTO to worry about, third-party profile management software suppliers can breathe easier as they don't have to sell against a feature that comes for free. Some of the products that fill the gap include AppSense, Unidesk Corp.'s persistent personalization offering, and Liquidware Labs' ProfileUnity.
Many profile management offerings work by abstracting end-user profile data from the registry and virtualizing it so users can access it from any device. Some offering, such as ProfileUnity, go a step beyond and also virtualize all of the user environment configuration and administration of user settings such as mapped files, printers, shortcuts, and IP settings.
Simon Bramfitt, principal research analyst at the Burton Group, a Midvale, Utah-based independent analysis firm, hadn't heard about VMware's change of plans, but called profile management a required feature for any enterprise-class server hosted virtual desktop (SHVD) product.
Without the personalization component, virtual desktops only make sense for task workers. Shannon Snowden, a consultant with Louisville, Ky.-based IT consultancy New Age Technologies, Inc., recently completed a View 4.5 trial with a large government client sans the RTO component. He said it was fine because the client only virtualized task worker desktops.
While it may work well enough for much of today's VDI, the lack of profile management won't cut it for the long term.
"Once virtualized desktops are more mature and widely used like server virtualization, a more complete desktop experience will be one of the leading success factors," Snowden said.
VMware still plans to deliver offline support, which Burton Group said is a feature that is preferred, but not required. Citrix also provides offline support for XenDesktop with XenClient, which launched in beta last month.
"Considering the intense competition between VMware and Citrix for the [server hosted virtual desktop] market, any potential advantage that VMware might gain through View 4.5's ability to support disconnected operation would be more than lost through the omission of a user profile management capability," Burton Group's Bramfitt said.