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VMware presents its Project Horizon application delivery strategy

The Windows PC is so yesterday, says VMware. The server virtualization leader has a plan to deliver apps via cloud and client that could change end user computing as we know it.

SAN FRANCISCO -- VMware must diversify its products beyond server virtualization and has crafted a strategy that will stitch together cloud and client computing and potentially change the way IT shops deliver applications to end users.

At VMworld 2010 here this week, company executives tried to make their case to IT pros that Microsoft's Windows-based computing model is antiquated. Some combination of cloud computing and desktop virtualization is the next step in the evolution of IT, they said.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware disclosed plans to ship the latest version of its desktop virtualization product, VMware View 4.5, on Sept. 9 after a two month delay. View 4.5 will include offline access, better security and support for multiple device types, but as previously reported by, no built-in profile management.

IT managers were eager to hear more about desktop virtualization. One IT administrator said his company, a large Michigan-based distributor of disposable containers, decided to move to VMware View after one of its remote locations in the Cayman Islands got hit by a hurricane.

"After the storm, I was sent there to dig through the rusted PCs to find what was salvageable," said the administrator, who declined to be identified. "We can avoid that from happening again with desktop virtualization."

A server administrator who also declined to be named said that although desktop virtualization does involve significant acquisition costs, the management benefits in the long term will lower desktop management costs, so any "capex costs will be offset by opex savings," referring to capital and operating expenditures. He uses VMware View in remote offices and is conserving a move to Citrix XenDesktop on ESXi.

VMware's desktop evolution
With IT pros starting to accept the idea of virtual desktops, VMware is forging ahead with its cloud and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) strategy, banking on expectations that the Wintel juggernaut will soon fade. New technologies have already entered the picture and are changing how desktops are delivered. These include PC alternative such as iPads, smartphones and netbooks, as well as private clouds and virtual desktops and applications delivered through application virtualization from the corporate data center or the public cloud.

Project Horizon
VMware has given its strategy a name -- Project Horizon. Project Horizon is still conceptual, with no timeline for deliverables. But VMware Chief Technology Officer Scott Davis outlined the company's idea for moving from physical desktop provisioning to provisioning users and the devices they use.

"We know users run both local and off-premise apps that they access on their devices," Davis said. "We want to be able to authenticate users with a single sign-on for all their SaaS [Software as a Service] apps coupled with the desktop apps. We'll bring the consumer cloud experience to the enterprise and run it all in isolation -- delivering the apps safely behind a firewall."

Horizon is intended to establish a "cloud identity" and federate on-premise directory services between private and public clouds, so users can access apps from within an organization or from outside with a single identification. Access to those internal and SaaS-based apps would be controlled by IT.

So, for instance, when a new employee logs into a new laptop, there are apps on the local desktop. If the user wants to access cloud-based apps, he would sign in with a password. With Horizon, IT administrators would look at which desktop apps and SaaS apps each end user needs and log into the user's device. The Horizon agent would detect the apps running on the desktop and provision those programs to the user. Then, when the end user signs on, he could just click on the icons and get both internal and SaaS-based apps automatically, as if those apps lived on the local device. That user interface is based on technology from Zimbra, which VMware purchased early this year.

The single-sign on technology comes from the acquisition of Los Gatos, Calif.-based TriCipher, which VMware disclosed this week. VMware demonstrated Project Horizon here, an iTunes-like portal similar to Citrix's Dazzle self service application portal . But Dazzle does not include SaaS integration.

View 4.5 hits enterprise readiness
After a rocky beta, VMware's View 4.5 will roll out in September. The Premier version of the product adds offline support provided through a Type 2 client hypervisor. The lack of offline support was a sticking point for some enterprises, so adding it along with Windows 7 support could help adoption.

Unlike the bare-metal client hypervisor now in beta from Citrix (XenClient), VMware's client hypervisor is part of the operating system, called local mode, and is supported on most desktop operating systems. VMware continues to develop its Type 1 client hypervisor, but company executives have said that product is no longer a top priority.

VMware also said it will include profile management features gained through the acquisition of RTO Software in February in future version of View, but for now, the product integrates with third-party profile management tools such as Liquidware Labs ProfileUnity, which VMware officially endorses.

Within View, VMware improved security management for delivering virtual desktops to mobile workers and remote and branch offices with security card support, and this version supports the FIPS 140-2 Security Requirements for Cryptographic Modules, an information standard for U.S. federal agencies.

In addition, this version lets iPad and iPhone users access their View desktops. (The company uses Wyse Technology's Pocket Cloud for other devices.) VMware is working on a similar tool for accessing View on remote devices, but it did not have a release date.

View 4.5 also supports Microsoft Windows 7 and tiered storage to lower storage costs.

VMware View 4.5 Enterprise Edition includes VMware vSphere 4 for desktops, VMware vCenter 4 and VMware View Manager 4.5 and is priced at $150 per concurrent connection. VMware View 4.5, Premier Edition includes VMware vSphere 4 for desktops, VMware vCenter 4, VMware View Manager 4.5 with offline access, VMware ThinApp 4.5 and VMware View Composer and is priced at $250 per concurrent connection.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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