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VMware View 5 to add profiles, PCoIP and client support

VMware will deliver some long-awaited features in View 5, but customers of the VDI product won't get everything they ask for.

The next version of VMware View will have better PCoIP performance, more client device support, a storage management feature similar to Citrix IntelliCache and -- finally -- integrated profile management.

A VMware View integrator based in New England who is privy to company details said VMware View 5 will have a storage management feature similar to Citrix IntelliCache. Storage costs and performance issues plague virtual desktop customers, so this would alleviate those issues.

Sources close to VMware also said Virtual Profiles will be part of the View picture later this year, but the functions will be limited. Specifically, it won't include the desired Windows XP to Windows 7 profile compatibility.

That means many VMware View shops will still need to buy third-party profile management tools. VMware endorses Liquidware Labs profile management product, and Liquidware offers its ProfileUnity product at a discount intermittently for View customers. The company's profile management offering does much more than the Virtual Profiles management tool VMware acquired from RTO Software in 2010.

VMware declined to comment on View 5. However, IT pros expect the company to disclose the product's advances at VMworld 2011 in August.

PCoIP shortcomings
Some IT pros complain that compared with other products, PCoIP performs inconsistently and hogs bandwidth. This creates problems for end users when using graphics and video over a WAN.

VMware improved PCoIP in View 4.6 earlier this year in both cases. For example, View 4.6 provided frame rate and audio compression tuning options. But more can be done.

"VMware and Teradici still have some work to do before PCoIP will be competitive with Citrix ICA/HDX over the WAN," said Chris Wolf, an analyst at Gartner, Inc., the Stamford, Conn.-based consulting firm. "Most notably, support for third-party WAN acceleration -- such as Cisco and Riverbed -- are a must."

One IT consultant who recently installed VMware View and PCoIP for a large healthcare organization in the northeast called PCoIP with View "buggy." For example, when users connect to their virtual desktop, the cursor is noticeably less responsive.

"What you end up with is a cursor that appears to update its location 25% less often and acts choppy," said the integrator, who wished to remain anonymous. "If I connect via RDP, the mouse behaves normally with no slowness at all."

VMware continues to improve its remote protocol product and Gartner's Wolf said several features expected in the next release will also help performance. 

Desktop virtualization expert and blogger Brian Madden recently wrote about the need for more View client support, and a VMware representative answered the call saying client device support will be a non-issue in the near future. VMware also said the company will expand its client platform support list to include an Android tablet and other devices.

There are currently VMware View PCoIP clients for some Windows and Linux clients, and there is a View client for iPad. However, there is no PCoIP client for Mac, and View Local Mode is also not supported on Macs. Meanwhile, Citrix has HDX clients for just about every device enterprises use.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) consultants who also sell Citrix's virtual desktop offerings have said VMware has progressed during the past year. Integrators who sell both products have said VMware View lags Citrix XenDesktop because View's limitations continue to kill deals.

What VMware customers want in View 5
Apart from what VMware delivers in August, IT pros have their own wish list of improvements for View 5.

Some VMware users recently put their View 5 requests on the VMware Communities board. They asked for local drive mapping, GPU virtualization, better print management and improved USB peripheral support.

Many have asked for built-in integration between ThinApp and VMware View, but it's unclear whether VMware is inclined to offer this since ThinApp provisioning is built into third-party offerings from VMware partners. Liquidware Lab's ProfileUnity provisions and pushes out ThinApp packages to any Windows desktop (including ones delivered by View) and it tracks licensing, change management and inventory.

IT pros also want universal printing capabilities in View. This is currently provided via an OEM agreement with ThinPrint, but customers say the OEM version doesn't work properly. Gartner's Wolf said some organizations that require printing to printers that are USB-attached to thin clients need the commercial ThinPrint software.

Citrix Terminal Server and Remote Desktop Services customers also notice the lack of local drive mapping support in VMware View, which helps when mapping through to local drives. That can be a show-stopper for large scale deployments, one View customer wrote on the VMware Communities board.

IT pros using high-end 2D and 3D graphics want GPU virtualization support in View, as well. Customers are also frustrated by USB support limitations and quirks.

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

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