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Desktop virtualization review: A few of my favorite things from 2012

Gabe Knuth shares his favorite trends of the year in this desktop virtualization review, but 2012 wasn't all whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens.

As we approach the end of 2012, I thought I would look at some of the top desktop virtualization trends and products that stick out in my mind.

From established vendors to up-and-comers and licensing issues to acquisitions, there was a lot shifting and changing in the VDI market this year. As you hunker down for the holidays, take a journey back through 2012 with me in this desktop virtualization review.

Citrix Excalibur

This shows up on my list because it's a dream come true for those of us dealing with separate management, consoles, databases and licensing for Citrix's most popular products over the years. Excalibur represents a push by Citrix to get all the core technologies under one umbrella, and while it hasn't been released yet, I'm anxiously anticipating a world in which we can focus more on individual operations than we do on simply tying them together.

There are still challenges that remain with Citrix Excalibur, especially because we don't know how it will be licensed or how scalability will change with everything based on the same back-end architecture. Still, it goes to show that even though this technology is feeling a bit old, there are many things we can do to make it better. This is a start.

Bromium vSentry

I wrote about Bromium's brand of micro-virtualization when vSentry was first announced, and it has continued to impress me, both in terms of security and attack visualization. Bromium vSentry is a unique approach to browser security, spawning so-called micro VMs for every process (in fact, each thread) needed by Internet Explorer. When the thread is complete, the micro-VM is thrown away, having isolated any misbehavior from affecting the host operating system.

The fact that everything in a micro-VM is insulated from the host also means that vSentry can let malware execute completely without posing any risk to the host. This allows Bromium's LAVA product to analyze each hack, exploit or bit of malware that is directed at the user. That information, combined with similar information from all users, can be used to identify concentrated efforts by the bad guys to manipulate your users, your computers and your data. Very cool, indeed.

OnLive licensing: Taking a crack at Microsoft

This story takes me back to the beginning of the year when we paid a visit to OnLive's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., trying to discover how, exactly, they could deliver Windows 7 desktops for free (or for a very small fee) to users.

More VDI market news from 2012

Simon Crosby explains Bromium vSentry

OnLive caves to Microsoft licensing rules

DaaS providers ignore Microsoft licensing policies

Until that point, OnLive was known for its cloud gaming platform, which allows gamers to play graphics-intensive games over a remote desktop-like solution. OnLive uses custom hardware, software and protocols to accomplish this, and the end result is that the game executes in a data center somewhere. It sends down video to a device attached to a television, which in turns sends back controls.

OnLive's remote desktop solution was originally designed to use all its back-end systems during downtimes (for instance, during the day when gamers are supposedly at work). They've simply installed Windows 7 Enterprise, hooked it into the connection broker that they already use for their games and started delivering desktops in the same way.

However, this was all being done in clear violation of the Windows 7 EULA, which states that you cannot deploy Windows 7 to users in different organizations using the same hardware. OnLive was delivering Windows desktops to just about anyone that uses non-dedicated hardware, so this was a problem. Microsoft investigated the situation, and without much fanfare, OnLive's desktop app switched to a more licensing-friendly Windows Server 2008 Remote Desktop Session Host solution.

Subsequently, OnLive has gone through a massive restructure, and even though just about everyone was let go from the company, the doors remain open as the once-promising new business gets its act together in a shifting VDI market space.

OnLive vs. Microsoft was just the start of numerous desktop virtualization trends and controversies that kept me interested this year. Tune in next week for more of my desktop virtualization review and how these stories will affect IT pros in 2013.

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What do you think has been the most important VDI event of the past year?
HP's new t410!!!