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For smaller vendors, extending Citrix, VMware environments is key

For smaller vendors like Pano Logic and RingCube, enhancing VMware and Citrix virtual desktop environments is the key to success.

We spend a lot of time on this website talking about mainstream desktop virtualization vendors like Citrix, Microsoft and VMware. Part of that is based on demand, but part is based on the fact that a lot of people are nervous about working with smaller vendors.

But two companies, Pano Logic and RingCube, have recently introduced products that integrate and extend (rather than compete against) the desktop solutions from Citrix and VMware. Is this a smart way to get their stuff out there without alienating the masses?

The first is Pano Logic, which makes virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) client devices as well as software to connect them to desktops. The client devices are similar to thin clients, although Pano calls them "zero clients" because the client devices have no intelligence on them whatsoever. While traditional thin clients still have a local CPU and memory and run an operating system such as an embedded version of Linux or Windows, the Pano zero clients have none of that. They're just an extended video, keyboard, mouse and USB device that connects to the host via the network.

I've always liked Pano, but one of its limitations has been that it connected only to virtual machines (VMs) running on VMware ESX servers. But that changed recently with Pano System 4, which supports ESX, Hyper-V and XenServer for its back-end systems.

Another cool feature is that if you already have an existing desktop virtualization system -- such as Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View -- you can add the Pano clients to your environment to "upgrade" your current thin clients to zero clients. You don't have to rip out your existing virtual desktop system and start from scratch.

Shifting gears, RingCube has also recently introduced an updated version of its software. In the past, RingCube's vDesk was known as a cool client-based desktop virtualization product. It allowed you to boot up a second, secure instance of an existing operating system. A user could run Windows 7 on a laptop, and just by installing the small (about 30 MB) vDesk software, you could boot a "corporate" instance of Windows 7. From a practical standpoint, it was kind of like VMware Workstation except without the overhead of a hypervisor and huge disk images. Customers love vDesk because they get the management benefits of VDI without the network or server requirements.

Still, VDI is increasingly popular. Even though the whole point of RingCube vDesk was that it wasn't VDI, a lot of customers thought, "OK, so now I have to use vDesk for some users and a traditional VDI solution for others? That sounds like a pain."

To that end, RingCube just introduced a VDI Edition of vDesk. The VDI Edition is not meant to be a standalone product; instead, it integrates with existing View or XenDesktop environments. RingCube is targeting this at the "personalization" problem of VDI, which has traditionally been a challenge.

So with RingCube VDI Edition, you still deliver a standard baseline desktop with Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View, but then the small RingCube engine spawns a "second" Windows instance from the first that is actually the one that's used. So you get all the benefits of the big-name VDI solution combined with the personalization of RingCube. Brilliant!

If you haven't looked at Pano Logic or RingCube because you were nervous about not working with one of the main VDI players, both companies have now given you a reason to revisit their offerings. Good move!

Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog, BrianMadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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