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Four alternatives to the major VDI vendors

Although industry giants dominate the VDI market, other options exist that may prove more economical and easier to implement.

Names such as VMware, Citrix and Microsoft are at the top of the desktop virtualization industry, but a vast array of alternatives to these VDI vendors exists. Many offer software, hardware and management tools that may be just what smaller enterprises need to jump on the VDI bandwagon.

NComputing

NComputing got its start with products that used

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thin clients to allow users to share PCs via server-based software multiplexer. However, the company has moved away from the multiplexer ideology into the desktop virtualization space. It has put extensive work into building its vSpace software platform that provides all the components of VDI while still working with its hardware thin clients (such as the L-series, M-series and X-series devices). It also offers the vSpace Client, an application that turns older PCs into Windows 7 virtual desktop devices.

By using a plug-and-play ideology, NComputing aims to eliminate many of the technical hurdles surrounding VDI, yet still leverage the existing infrastructure. Although it is more costly than some roll-your-own VDI offerings, time savings and reliability can make up for any added expenses.

Dell Wyse

Wyse, which Dell purchased in May 2012, developed thin client technology that was based upon a client-server methodology. A server-class machine hosted multiple desktops, while a thin client device delivered desktop operations to remote users.

The Dell Wyse combination has created new VDI offerings, such as vStart for VDI, an enterprise-class VDI tool that uses plug-and-play technology. Other offerings under the Dell banner include the Dell Virtualization Solutions (DVS) Simplified Appliance, which acts as an appliance-based VDI host, eliminating much of the hardware and configuration concerns.

For larger deployments, Dell offers the DVS Enterprise Infrastructure, which delivers desktop virtualization to environments ranging from 50 seats to several thousands. The company also offers a Dell Wyse WSM Starter Kit, an inclusive package that brings VDI to small and medium-sized businesses.

Hewlett-Packard

HP's acquisition of Neoware in 2007 vaulted the company to the top of the thin client market. Focusing on zero client ideology, HP has introduced endpoint clients such as the t410 All-in-One Smart Zero client, which incorporates Power over Ethernet and support for Citrix HDX -- on-chip for high-definition virtual desktops.

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HP has used thin clients as a way to grow its VDI business. The company offers several stateless thinclient devices under its t5000 model line and shies away from recommending that VDI adopters use existing PCs as endpoints for virtual desktops. The company claims that using existing systems can pose limitations that limit return on investment.

The company offers bundles and complete VDI suites, including everything from VMware-certified servers to connection protocols to endpoint devices, meaning that administrators can have a single point of contact for support issues and upgrades.

Pano Logic

Known for its zero clients, Pano Logic went out of business in October 2012, but it was reborn after its assets were purchased by Propalms, an application delivery vendor. Propalms intends to integrate Pano Logic into its organization as a new division and continue to support and develop Pano Logic's zero client technology.

Even though the company is no longer, the technology that Pano Logic introduced brings a new twist to the world of VDI: It offered a zero client device that had no local processing power as a method to deliver a desktop over Ethernet to a remote monitor, keyboard and mouse.

The company extended the capabilities of its zero client platform by incorporating virtualization technology, turning it into a VDI platform. Pano Logic's platform is hypervisor-independent, meaning that it will work with hypervisors from the leading vendors, such as VMware, Citrix and Microsoft.

Still, questions remain as to whether Propalms will continue to develop the Pano Logic platform or shift customers over to its own application delivery platform.

As the VDI market heats up, potential adopters should consider the many options and offerings available from vendors inhabiting the VDI space. You may even choose to self-integrate and combine technologies from various vendors to build the perfect solution for a given environment. Those pressed for time may want to adopt a single vendor ideology and build their VDI systems from one-stop-shop pre-integrated technology.

This was first published in July 2013

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