VMware may rule the world of server hypervisors, but IT shops also see the company as a rival to Citrix, with both locked in a tight race for virtual desktop dominance.
The company had a setback when it dropped a critical, and much anticipated, profile management feature out of the latest View 4.5 beta. It did not confirm SearchVirtualDesktop.com
When they pulled [RTO Software] out, a lot of people hit the brakes. It has caused a lot of indecision in the market.
Jim Sanzone, IT consultant
Users and consultants don't consider a VDI environment complete without profile management software, which gives IT pros a way to deliver personalized virtual desktops to end users. It's a big deal, considering that Citrix already includes a basic profile management tool, User Profile Manager, in its XenDesktop offering.
In an interview last week, VMware acknowledged that profile management is an important piece of VDI but said it won't bundle the feature with View 4.5 in the way the company initially planned. The company instead plans to include profile management features based on the technology it acquired from RTO Software in future releases, according to an emailed statement from Vittorio Viarengo, vice president of desktop product management at VMware.
"In addition, VMware View 4.5 will continue to support third-party persona management capabilities," Viarengo said. "Customers can expect further innovation and integration of persona management as VMware continues to advance its model for end-user computing within the enterprise."
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is expected to launch View 4.5 at VMworld 2010 later this month.
Integration brings indecision
Some profile management components come from suppliers such as AppSense, RES Software or Liquidware Labs. Liquidware Labs recently said that View shops can download and use ProfileUnity to manage user profiles and data in physical, VDI and Terminal Services deployments for $19 per user.
But third-party tools can get expensive, especially for organizations with thousands of users, said Jim Sanzone, an IT consultant with a major technology integrator in New York.
"Customers were excited when VMware said it would include RTO in View because they need profile management, and they saw it as a way to lower costs," Sanzone said. "When they pulled it out, a lot of people hit the brakes. It has caused a lot of indecision in the market."
"People want to make a move, but they don't want to go out and buy something that next week will be included in VMware," he said. "Even if VMware were to include a basic tool, like Citrix offers, at least it would give people something to start with."
VMware said that VDI continues to be an important market for the company and that it expects enterprises will eventually adopt the same "virtualize first" policies they apply to servers to desktop environments.
Virtualize-first policies for desktops are a long way off, for sure. Whether or not the exclusion of profile management in View 4.5 is a setback might be moot, because relatively few enterprises have adopted desktop virtualization, said Dave Bartoletti, a senior analyst at The Taneja Group, a technology analysis firm in Hopkinton, Mass.
"The VDI market is still in a growth phase, so these stumbles may not hurt VMware too much," Bartoletti said. "The challenge with VDI is that the ROI is not as clear as it was with server virtualization; there are costs and performance issues related to VDI."
Playing catch-up with Citrix
Even though VDI users and consultants consider profile management a required component for a complete VDI environment, analysts at Gartner consider it a preferred but not required component. For this reason, the Stamford, Conn.-based consulting firm gives VMware View 4.5 its seal of approval for the enterprise.
Gartner, which publishes server and desktop virtualization product-comparison reports, deemed XenDesktop 4 SP1 the first enterprise-ready server hosted virtual desktop (SHVD) platform last month.
"[VMware] has really done a 180 with its management interface and integration with third-party tools, and it has committed to profile management for future versions of View," said Chris Wolf, a Gartner analyst who co-authored the SHVD enterprise readiness report.