This year saw some big VDI news around popular products from VMware, Citrix and Amazon.
Improvements to VMware Horizon View and Mirage, plus Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop, were some of the big attention-getters for those in the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) field, but so too were developments in the relationships between vendors. VMware Inc. and Teradici Corp. seemed to have hit a rough patch, Citrix Systems Inc. directed customers to start using Microsoft's App-V, and Amazon Web Services Inc. threw down the gauntlet to challenge almost everyone in the cloud-hosted desktop market.
In fact, Desktop as a Service (DaaS), though still a new technology, grabbed more headlines and continues to find footing in IT departments. Read about the biggest stories as we recap the top VDI news of 2013:
10. New VMware View features revealed
Ahead of VMworld 2013, there was lots of buzz about what was to come in the next version of View. Security and networking enhancements, plus updates to Teradici's PCoIP Hardware Accelerator, were some of the rumored additions that were exciting for shops hoping to improve View VDI performance. Keep reading to learn about the news surrounding View 5.3 when it was finally announced.
9. A VMware-Teradici split on the horizon?
When VMware came out with its HTML5 protocol, Blast, customers wondered whether a split between PCoIP provider Teradici and VMware was imminent. A schism between the two companies is unlikely, however, because there are so many vendor relationships tied to PCoIP, and the protocol has been key to Horizon View's success.
8. VMware's Virtual SAN hits beta
VDI environments have big storage requirements that can fluctuate depending on use. In response, vendors have come out with tools to improve performance, such as VMware's Virtual SAN. The product clusters server disks and flash, and it pools compute and attached storage to make one data store, which give more capacity and speed to end users. But Virtual SAN is in direct competition with some of VMware's partners, and plenty of other vendors are competing with their own innovative storage offerings.
7. Mirage 4.3 supports View desktops, physical and virtual
Horizon Mirage 4.3, VMware's physical desktop management software, now supports persistent virtual desktops, too. Mirage separates physical desktop images into layers to balance end-user personalization and IT control. It also has traditional desktop management features, but the ability to manage a single image across physical and virtual desktops is a big deal for View customers. This VDI news gives Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager a run for its money.
6. Affordable VDI does exist
As several companies have gone under or gotten acquired, the list of affordable VDI options has shrunk, but it's not completely slashed. One IT shop on a tight budget rolled out 760 NComputing virtual desktop thin clients and software running on seven Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines. Other affordable alternatives to Citrix, VMware and Microsoft include the Dell-Wyse-Quest combo, Ericom Software Inc. and Armor5 Inc.
5. Shadowing returns in Windows Server 2012 R2
Windows 8.1 doesn't have all the fixes that desktop admins might want, but Windows Server 2012 R2 has some Remote Desktop Services enhancements that might make up for it. Features include online data deduplication that works with persistent and nonpersistent virtual desktops, a seamless windows capability that makes a remote application feel local for users, some RemoteFX tweaks to improve bandwidth use and compression, and the return of shadowing.
4. Finding ways around VDA
VDI is getting cheaper, but Microsoft's Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license stands in the way. Companies need VDA to deliver virtual desktops, and it's included with Software Assurance, but only for Windows devices. Everything else costs $100 per device per year. DaaS shops have found ways around the licensing snag by using Windows Server as a client OS, even though that configuration isn't ideal because application compatibility and printing can be problematic.
3. Amazon dives into DaaS with WorkSpaces
This year, in some of the biggest VDI news, Amazon's WorkSpaces cannon-balled into the cloud-hosted desktop pool. The Desktop as a Service offering lets IT centrally manage and deliver desktop images without the hardware, software and infrastructure costs of on-premises VDI. WorkSpaces supports persistent sessions, and there's no need to make a long-term commitment to Amazon, just a monthly fee that Amazon says costs about half of in-house VDI.
2. With XenApp-XenDesktop 7 combo, Citrix simplifies VDI
Project Avalon brought XenDesktop and XenApp management and deployment under the same umbrella: the FlexCast Management Architecture. Citrix boiled the number of management consoles down from 20 to two, and the install time for the basic package now only takes about 20 minutes. It also added automatic publishing for applications, support for Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8, and more options for desktop and app delivery to mobile devices.
1. Citrix ditches Application Streaming
At Citrix Synergy 2013, the company touted new features of XenApp and XenDesktop, but failed to mention that Application Streaming is dead. Customers can still use Application Streaming in their existing XenApp deployments until they migrate to Windows Server 2012. Upon that migration, shops will have to switch to Microsoft's App-V. Citrix said it is ditching Application Streaming because the changes in Server 2012 would have necessitated a complete overhaul of XenApp to support the feature. Migration won't be a pain for customers who upgrade to XenDesktop 7 because it comes with AppDNA, which facilitates the jump to App-V.