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VMware Inc.'s vClient initiative may be compelling but one industry analyst wonders how many users will require their desktop environment on portable devices.
The vClient initiative, announced this week at the 10th annual VMWorld conference, is designed to give users one view of all their data and applications on different devices, and is endorsed by major hardware vendors like Fujitsu-Siemens, HP and NEC.
Though CEO Paul Maritz did not elaborate on the implementation for smart phones and handheld devices, he did say the firm plans to include vClient versions for mobile hardware in the future.
vClient includes VMware View, designed to make user profiles and applications available on different devices, including Windows and Macintosh.
Dump the Desktop?
"People who have BlackBerrys, they have desktops, there's clearly a group of people who will pay a significant amount of money for that," said David Floyer, co-founder of the Wikibon project, a Mountain View, Calif.-based firm that publishes research online. "But I'm not sure of the fundamental value proposition."
Using the iPhone as an example, Floyer said some users may dispense with the desktop and use portable devices as their primary client.
"It's a very powerful operating system, a very powerful device," Floyer said of the iPhone. "Maybe it's just simpler that that becomes the PC of the future, that you obviate the need for so many devices. You pick one that's the best fit for your lifestyle and you'll make do with what it can do and if necessary you'll pick another one.
Along with vClient, VMware also announced Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS), which includes services for infrastructure, cloud computing and storage.
One product under the VDC-OS umbrella is the Fault Tolerenace service, designed to move applications over to different hardware in the event of failure, with no down time.
"If a machine goes down we let another physical resource in the resource pool pick it up," said Stephen Herrod, VMware's chief technology officer. "The idea is you run a virtual machine, you have a shadow copy kept on another site kept in perfect synchronization. You can't have a fault tolerance that 'kind of works.'"
Floyer said managing storage is a major issue today in managing virtual environments.
"If you do not manage things properly, you can actually make things and your storage far worse, because instead of having ten real machines, you have 50 virtual machines running on the same infrastructure and you are not careful you have five times the storage," Floyer said. "So you have to manage the storage carefully, you have to manage the backup environment."
As part of its desktop virtualization portfolio, VMware announced version 2.0 of Fusion, which lets users run Windows applications on their Macintoshes without having to buy the Mac versions of Office software.
"A lot of businesses have a site licence for office for windows and don't want to purchase licenses of office for Mac," said Pat Lee, VMware's group manager for consumer products.
Lee added Fusion 2.0 would appeal to business users running computer-aided design (CAD) software and those that employ Mac users working on their own Apple hardware.
VMware officials said about 14,000 users attended the conference, which included an exhibition of partners and education sessions.
One Canadian user who presented was Kris Jmaeff, senior server analyst and information systems security specialist with the Interior Health Authority.
Based in Kelowna, B.C., IHA operates 28 acute care facilities and a total of 183 health facilities. More than three years ago, the organization decided to use VMware Infrastructure to consolidate servers when it was formed after an amalgamation of several regional health organizations.
In 2006, the organization had a total of 66 virtual and physical servers, and now it has 250 virtual servers, Jmaeff said. When they rolled out VMware in 2006, the organization found it had 40 percent more capacity due to server virtualization.
Now, more than 50 percent of servers in their data center are virtual, he said.
Virtualization has come a long way since IBM introduced CP 67 in 1967, Floyer noted.
"I grew up with IBM's original virtual machine, which was CP 67," he said. "I always had a great love for that. You could virtualize your devices, your machines and disks -- everything."
But he noted there were drawbacks.
"The first versions of this had huge overhead," he said. "You lost so much at the processor. The combination of what Intel has done to speed things up plus the work that VMware did to make the overhead reasonable and just recognizing that it's more than just providing a hypervisor."