One pain remedy for the Vista headache

Windows users who think their applications won’t work on Vista may want to consider virtualization, though the technology is more expensive than the vendors would have you believe, according to an industry analyst.

Natalie Lambert, senior analyst for desktop operations and architecture with Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., said many companies are considering installing virtualization products from companies like Fort Lauderdale, Calif.-based Citrix Systems Inc. or VMware Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., because they believe it will cut costs.

Although virtualization may cut management costs by 70 per cent, the cost of installing it includes more than just the licensing costs, she said.

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“If you’re going to completely, 100 per cent switch over, you need to get rid of all your PCs, and bring in thin clients,” Lambert said. “You have to bring in big servers on the back and, and plan out, on average, between 10 and 20 virtual machines per server. You’re bringing in quite a few servers to get this solution up and running.”

She added another significant cost is the storage required. Because desktop virtualization brings all computing and applications to the server, each user needs between 10 and 30 GB of extra storage, Lambert said.

Lambert co-authored a recent report, titled Demystifying Client Virtualization, which said security is one of the major benefits of virtualization, because data can be encrypted and backed up but housed on the server.

“If you look at data security and the idea that you will no longer have data out on your end points – this is a huge benefit to many organizations,” she said. “They can keep their data under lock and key.”

Security is one selling point for Pano Logic Inc.’s Virtual Desktop Solution Version 2.0, which was announced this week and works with VMware Virtual Desktop Manager.

“The farther away that end user is from the central data centre, the harder it is to manage, the harder it is to control,” said Mike Fodor, Pano Logic’s vice-president of product management. “We all know those USB thumb drives that you can put into PCs, as soon as you allow that and enable that, it’s really hard to keep track of any sort of data that’s been copied to them.”

New to version 2.0 is the ability to run over a WAN, which is why Pano Logic is targeting branch offices with this software.

Lambert said it’s difficult for IT managers to make a business case to buy virtualization products because there is always the question of whether the data protected would have been compromised in the first place.

Although Microsoft Corp. plans to stop supporting Windows XP and is recommending users replace it with Vista, Forrester notes many IT managers are concerned their applications won’t run properly on Vista. Forrester recommends in these cases that companies run Windows XP and the applications on a virtual machine on top of Vista. Lambert said a product like VMware Thinstall may work well on Vista.

“What I think it really enables you to do is run your XP or your Windows 2000 applications on that Vista machine,” Lambert said. “The largest inhibitors to Vista adoption is that your applications simply aren’t compatible with the new OS.

She warned companies running virtualization software need to make sure they have a reliable network connection.

Fodor said Pano Logic’s VDS 2.0, which ships next month, would work over a T1 connection. Pano Logic is targeting branch offices with this software.

“At this point we’re not targeting that work from home user who has to deal with their VPN client and all that,” fodor said, adding the software works with the Pano Device, which is basically a gateway that connects a user’s keyboard and monitor, through an IP network, to a server.

“In a way, it also acts as an extension cord, bringing in all of those peripherals, all that user interaction allows you to stretch it over network,” Fodor said. “You can have Pano devices out there that have no software and those remote users can have the full Windows experience. IT can manage everything centrally because there’s no software, there’s no operating systems, there’s no driver in that remote office in that scenario. It’s the most cost-effective way for IT to support a remote office.”

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