The VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is still in its infancy. The concept was born from creative customers who simply hosted Windows XP machines as guests on VMware when they needed a temporary PC. It has ballooned into a solution for VMware server that VMware and many other hypervisor vendors are marketing. VMware has a particular implementation of VDI, but there's nothing proprietary about VDI itself -- it simply consists of Windows desktops hosted on VMware ESX Server with maybe a connection broker piece of software currently provided by third parties. However, VMware will soon release VMware Desktop Manager 2, its own VMware connection broker, which will give them an end-to-end virtualization solution for the desktop. It is in beta now and is due out by the end of the year.
I think there is an opportunity for VARs to start offering VDI solutions to the right type of client, such as those who mainly deal with traditional office-suite programs and files. VDI is not suited for heavy audio/video or graphics work quite yet.
I believe there is also an opportunity to come up with some really innovative VDI solutions when VARs and integrators start to combine products from different companies. For example, there is a product from Citrix called Ardence Streaming Platform; it's been viewed as a competitor to VDI. It streams hard-disk images (such as operating systems and applications) to a machine from the network. The disk images can be streamed to virtual machines just as easily as they can be streamed to physical machines.
One of the problems with Ardence has been the need to maintain different disk images for different hardware sets. That problem disappears when you stream the disk images to a virtual machine, because all of the drivers are uniform on a virtual machine. Also, a problem with the traditional VDI solution has been that you need disk space for each virtual machine that you intend to host. Ardence allows several virtual machines to boot from one shared disk image. This would dramatically cut down on the disk space needed for a VDI solution.
Listen to the VMware podcast here.
This was first published in November 2007