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Acquisition explosion: VDI vendors beef up virtual desktop management

The last few weeks have been action-packed for desktop virtualization vendors, with a bunch of interesting acquisitions

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taking place. Each deal will have a different effect on the industry, but they all have one objective in common: better virtual desktop management.

A few months ago, Dell acquired Wyse (and could be eyeing Quest now, too). Soon after, Citrix acquired Virtual Computer and, last week, VMware acquired Wanova. Here's how these VDI vendors will change desktop virtualization:

Dell and Wyse: It's about time

Dell's acquisition of Wyse was met with a collective "it's about time!" from the industry. Hewlett-Packard and Wyse had long been going back and forth, and even though Dell sold thin clients (DevonIT hardware), Dell was never really in the conversation. Dell has been getting more involved with VDI and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) offerings on the data center side recently without having any real strategic components on the client side. After all, it's hard to sell an end-to-end DaaS product that still puts PCs under the desks.

So, Dell acquiring Wyse makes a ton of sense from that perspective. Of course, it also makes sense from a supplier perspective. If organizations wanted to purchase all their hardware from one vendor, HP was the only way to go. Now Dell has a complete line of endpoint devices and, just as importantly, virtual desktop management. Wyse Stratus will likely evolve into an end-to-end device management platform, rather than focus only on mobile devices and thin clients -- one of the many reasons Dell was interested in Wyse.

Citrix and Virtual Computer: Easy integration

Citrix was part of a sizable investment in Virtual Computer in 2009, so the company likely had its eye on Virtual Computer for a while. Citrix is familiar with Virtual Computer's NxTop product (which is based on the same core hypervisor components as XenClient), so integration into XenClient should be a cinch. Second, the acquisition can provide XenClient with something it has needed for some time -- virtual desktop management.

Virtual Computer was the first to exit the failed offline VDI era of client hypervisors with a better direction than when it started. Once folks realized that offline VDI wasn't practical, vendors told us, rightly, that client hypervisors are about device and desktop management. XenClient lacks many of the features of NxTop right now. When XenClient Enterprise comes out, however, it will be the most robust client hypervisor platform on the market with the XenClient hypervisor and NxTop management.

VMware and Wanova: VDI gets physical

The latest acquisition from VDI vendors is the most exciting. VMware's acquisition of Wanova was a surprise because VMware had seemingly exited the device management aspect of client-side virtualization when it abandoned the CVP client hypervisor. What Wanova brings to virtual desktop management and beyond, however, is much more than that.

More on VDI vendor acquisitions:

Citrix acquires XenClient competitor Virtual Computer

Citrix integrates NxTop and XenClient, introduces Project Avalon

Dell acquires Wyse for thin client desktop virtualization

Dell's Wyse acquisition transforms VDI thin client market

VMware's Wanova acquisition extends VDI to physical desktops

Wanova's Mirage does for physical desktops what many technologies do for VDI. It gives you single image disk management, layering (real layering, but without using virtual disk images), user installed applications, user virtualization and bare-metal provisioning -- all for physical or virtual machines and different hardware!

VMware hasn't made its plans abundantly clear. I've been told that, for the time being, the Mirage product will be sold as it was before the acquisition. As for integration into VMware's product line, I think there are two likely places where VMware can use the technology almost exactly as it exists today: departmental apps and portable operating system images.

Departmental applications would be a response to Citrix's personal vDisk and Follow-Me application features that the company unveiled after its acquisition of RingCube last fall. That seems like an easy win for Citrix and a good way to even out the list of features of each product.

With portable OS images, I picture a future version of VMware View or Horizon with intelligence in the broker that takes advantage of the fact that Wanova images can be deployed essentially anywhere. An example of this flexibility is when a user logs in and chooses the desktop he or she wants. The broker could then determine the network connection and endpoint capabilities to deliver either a locally executed, native OS or the same exact OS from a virtual machine (either via VDI or a client-side hypervisor such as VMware Fusion).

That sounds like offline VDI, but the way I see it, it's just desktop delivery. There's no checking in or checking out of a desktop. There's no background synchronization involved. It's the same exact image in either case. And, when the desktop is executed on the local machine, users don't have to wait to copy the entire disk image. The bits are streamed down as needed, just like Citrix Provisioning Services would if it were still available for desktops.

In the future, the Wanova acquisition could contribute to an overall cloud-based desktop delivery solution irrespective of View. Perhaps it relies on vSphere and Horizon only, without having to worry about all the other components. A lot of things would have to change, so don't hold your breath. The bottom line is that it's a brilliant move for VMware, and it opens up a world of possibilities for the company that was out of reach not long ago.

All these acquisitions by VDI vendors will make for a changing desktop virtualization market.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabe Knuth
is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as "the other guy" at BrianMadden.com. He has been in the application delivery space for over 12 years and has seen the industry evolve from the one-trick pony of terminal services to the application and desktop virtualization of today. Gabe's focus tends to lean more toward practical, real-world technology in the industry, essentially boiling off the hype and reducing solutions to their usefulness in today's corporate environments.

This was first published in May 2012

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