VMware View 4 takes on Citrix in virtual PC rivalry

VMware on Monday released VMware View 4, an update to its desktop virtualization software the company said will help enterprise IT departments migrate to Microsoft’s Windows 7 and even deal with the H1N1 flu epidemic.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware is touting a better desktop experience, improved scalability and lower total cost of ownership with View 4, which licenses the PC over IP (PCoIP) remote display protocol from Burnaby, B.C.-based Terradici Corp. VMware has also closely tied View 4 to its vSphere software for managing virtual machines. At its recent VMworld 2009 conference in San Francisco two months ago, VMware executives talked repeatedly about the power of moving virtualization from servers to the desktop, calling up marquee customer Telus, which has rolled out View to more than 1,000 employees. VMware is still catching up to rival Citrix, however, which released XenDesktop 4 almost exactly a month earlier.

Patrick Harr, VMware’s vice-president of enterprise desktop marketing, said the company has already seen strong adoption of View in several key verticals such as financial services, health-care and government. These customers put a premium on the centralized control, security and compliance that desktop virtualization offers, he said. Major barriers, according to Harr, included cost – traditionally it has been about two more expensive to deploy virtual desktops from a capital expense perspective than a physical PC. Some users also found working a virtual PC inferior to the real thing.

“The final barrier has been to move out of small deployments with the intent to support tens of thousands of users,” he said.

Harr contrasted PCoIP with ICA, the remote desktop protocol Citrix uses, which e said was only designed to present and optimize a single application. “It’s not designed to present video and multimedia simultaneously,” he said. “PCoIP is designed to deliver the entire desktop – it will sub-divide each application independently, so it will first test and deliver the rich text, then determine the bandwidth needed for multimedia and optimize for each application.”

The combination of View 4 and vSphere means VMware can host twice the number of desktops and virtual machines on a single server than it could before, Harr said, which will mean the ability for much larger deployments. It also means IT managers can create one image of Windows 7 and push it out to everyone in the enterprise, he said. “It also allows the user to have more flexibility – it untethers the application and personal data from the actual device. If you spill coffee on your machine or your disk breaks, we’re going to be able to provision you onto a new machine.”

Besides easing tasks such as deploying security fixes on Patch Tuesday, Harr said View 4 could also be a way of assisting users who stay home for fear of spreading or catching H1N1, the so-called swine flu. “It’s giving you agility from a user perspective.”
In an interview at VMworld 2009, Chris Renter, director of IT infrastructure at Telus, told ComputerWorld Canada virtualization has allowed the company to streamline its desktop image and provide telecommuting options for its staff.
“Getting into the office can be a challenge,” he said. “We’re very much a real-time culture, so having that access to work very much has an impact on a Telus employee.  

While Citrix recently bowed to criticism over its reluctance to price XenDesktop 4 by device, Harr said VMware firmly believes in concurrent user-based licensing. “It’s the best solution for the customer,” he said. “We will not charge you on a named basis, where you could double or triple your costs.” VMware View 4 Enterprise Edition is priced at US$150 per concurrent connection and the VMware View 4 Premier Edition is priced at US$250 per concurrent connection.

VMware also launched a series of reference architectures from HP, EMC, Dell and NetApp which Harr said would assist users with their View 4 deployments.
Also on Monday, Citrix launched its OpenReady Desktop Virtualization program, which includes more than 10,000 products from over 200 vendors that have been validated as ready to deploy with its XenDesktop 4 software.

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