A look at VDI market underdog Virtual Bridges

Virtual Bridges is just one of a few smaller companies in the VDI market. Can its quick install and protocol integration keep it in step?

You hear a lot about the major VDI vendors, but what about smaller guys -- like Virtual Bridges -- that are digging their heels into the market?

Virtual Bridges has always been in the unenviable distant fourth place in the VDI market – and may have been pushed back to fifth with the release of Windows Server 2012 and Microsoft's full-featured Remote Desktop Services stack. We can't forget about Red Hat and DesktopSites, too, who are always lingering in that vicinity on the charts.

For Virtual Bridges to maintain its position, or even advance, some things are going to have to change. Even if a company's technology is robust, if the money doesn't start flowing, things will be shaken up. In the past year, there has been an overhaul in most of the executive offices. Sam Cece took over for Jim Curtin as CEO, and recently Leo Reiter stepped down as chief technology officer. Both were founders, and when that happens, it means the board has decided to move in a different direction.

What does Virtual Bridges have to offer?

Brian Madden and I invited Virtual Bridges to join our Geek Week way back in 2010 where we looked at VMware View, Citrix XenDesktop, Quest (now Dell) vWorkspace, Microsoft's in-box VDI solution and Virtual Bridges VERDE. We learned that VERDE takes advantage of the kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) hypervisor that is built into Linux, as well as the SPICE protocol, which was open sourced after Red Hat bought Qumranet in 2009.

The product worked well, and while not as robust as XenDesktop, View or even vWorkspace, there were some interesting takeaways from the experience. Namely, the installation of VERDE is ridiculously fast if you have any Linux experience. Even if you're Linux-challenged like me, it's still easy to stand up. Leo was able to stand up an entire environment from bare metal in 33 minutes. The only shortcut he took was that the Windows disk image was already pre-installed, which still means bare metal to VDI in around an hour.

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The SPICE protocol also has its bright spots, one of which is its integration with the hypervisor. When the remote display protocol runs out of band with respect to the guest OS, you can actually watch the virtual machines boot. As an admin, that gives you a little more deployment flexibility.

Sure, there are workarounds that we're all used to by now, but it's still a cool feature. SPICE also performed quite well in LAN environments. Additionally, the combination of SPICE and KVM means the tool is well-suited for mixed Windows and Linux environments.

Virtual Bridges existence has more or less hinged on a tight relationship with IBM. IBM packages offerings that also use View and XenDesktop, but most of the big customers and announcements from Virtual Bridges over the years have focused on big wins taking advantage of that relationship.

Former CEO Curtin is an ex-IBMer, so it remains to be seen whether IBM will continue to be a big part of Virtual Bridges' philosophy. My guess is that the future of Virtual Bridges will lean more heavily on other partners -- especially Desktop as a Service providers -- rather than on IBM. I'd also expect to see more marketing from them in an effort to get their message out.

The next 12 months could very well be make or break months for Virtual Bridges in the VDI market. There's good technology there, and I'm looking forward to learning more about their new philosophy and direction. VERDE 7 is due out in October, and it is supposed to include role-based access controls, enhanced multi-tenancy support, network Quality of Service controls and increased security.

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