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Unidesk adds Hyper-V support, bolsters Microsoft VDI

Unidesk 3.0 includes support for Microsoft VDI, giving some VMware Horizon users reason to consider a move to Hyper-V.

New support for Hyper-V from Unidesk will unlock some new application layering capabilities for Microsoft VDI.

Released this week, Unidesk 3.0 adds layering capabilities for enterprises that host desktops and applications in their private clouds using the Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). This expands beyond Unidesk Corp.'s domain in VMware and Citrix environments.

VMware recently acquired technologies from CloudVolumes (now App Volumes) and Immidio and can offer capabilities previously only available through third-party providers such as Unidesk and Liquidware Labs Inc. Now, it makes sense for Unidesk to branch out.

With Hyper-V support, Unidesk 3.0 customers can deliver apps from a single installation point as shared, read-only virtual disks to maintain the feel of locally installed apps. Custom persistent and nonpersistent virtual desktops can be created on Hyper-V using the same operating system and application-layer building blocks.

The new version also includes integrations for Citrix XenDesktop and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services.

The features in the new version were logical steps for Unidesk, said Mark Lockwood, research director for end-user computing with Gartner Inc., an analysis firm in Stamford, Conn.

"[Unidesk] didn't just sell to VMware customers," Lockwood said. "I do believe going to the next highest-rated hypervisor in the market is the right move for them to diversify."

Unidesk isn't out of the game for VMware VDI clients, because it offers a more mature tool set than App Volumes, Lockwood said.

However, Unidesk adding the support for Hyper-V could be a significant step for companies interested in Microsoft VDI. Instead of relying on tools from VMware or Citrix, Microsoft could refer customers with deployments larger than approximately 100 seats to look at Unidesk for application layering.

"This allows Microsoft VDI to scale," Lockwood said.

County to make Hyper-V switch

The government of Hamilton County, Ind., started using Unidesk to enhance its VMware virtual desktop environment in 2011 when it found it nearly impossible to virtualize several of its applications using just VMware's tools.

After adding Unidesk, the county more than doubled its VDI implementation in three months and now stands at 400 virtual desktops out of 1,000 users, said Chris Mertens, the county's director ofIT.

The county found the most cost-effective way to scale its VDI environment to 600 seats was to switch from vSphere to Hyper-V, and plans to do so within the next year. Mertens estimated adding more VMware licenses plus maintenance costs wo uld be around $140,000, while Hyper-V would cost about $112,000.

Unidesk's Hyper-V support made the decision to switch easier, Mertens said. The county beta-tested Unidesk 3.0 with Hyper-V and came away pleased with its performance.

"What we found in our testing was the speed of the desktops was faster than we had even anticipated," Mertens said. "The user experience should be better [than it has been with VMware]."

VMware's acquisitions to shore up its application layering capabilities didn't change the equation for Hamilton County.

"I've seen enough VMware acquisitions and their new products that are supposed to take care of a lot of these things really not come to fruition," Mertens said.

Hyper-V support on the rise

While Unidesk is mostly in its own category along with App Volumes for application layering, according to Lockwood, other companies that provide similar third-party VDI services are on board with Hyper-V.

AppSense Inc., which provides user virtualization, workspace and desktop management technology, fully supports Hyper-V with its products, a company spokesperson said.

Liquidware Labs' major product, ProfileUnity with FlexApp, which is a centralized user environment management tool, has supported Hyper-V delivered desktops for years. Stratusphere, its VDI assessment product, also supports Hyper-V.

Unidesk 3.0 is available now through Unidesk Solutions Partners. A onetime perpetual license and one year of maintenance is $180 per desktop, or $225 for the license and three years of maintenance. 

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