VMware acquires Desktone: Is your next desktop going to live in the cloud?

VMware announced that it was acquiring Desktone at its VMworld Europe in October. My colleague Charlie Osborne discussed this move in his commentary, VMware acquires desktop-as-a-service firm Desktone. I’ve been thinking about why VMware would do this and how VMware/Desktone is likely to play in today’s market.

What is “Desktop as a Service?”

Prior to this move Desktone was one of a small number of suppliers that offered tools and services that allows Windows desktop environments to be virtualized and then executed in the data center of some cloud service provider. Desktone called this approach Desktop as a Service (DaaS).

DaaS allows individuals or companies to order a service offering that allows them to access the image of a personal computer and installed applications without having to purchase hardware or software licenses. The image they\’re using can reside comfortably in the data center of a service provider.

On the face of it, this approach appears to be a low-cost but flexible option for those not wishing to deal with a personal computer on every desktop. These people would, instead, deploy a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone capable of executing the access virtualization necessary for people to access and use the applications and data that resides in that virtual desktop system.

How does VMware describe Desktone

In the VMware announcement of the Desktone acquisition positioned Desktone’s offerings with its own VMware Horizon in the following way:

The explosion of mobile devices, mobile and web applications, and increased interest in the cloud is driving businesses to re-evaluate their desktop strategy. Desktop virtualization with VMware Horizon View simplifies desktop management, security, and control while delivering an optimum end-user computing experience across all devices and networks. The addition of the Desktone platform further extends the benefits of desktop virtualization by offering an additional choice to organizations looking for predictable economics, flexibility of cloud deployment or simple deployment and management due to the lack of resources or in-house VDI expertise. The Desktone platform was purpose-built for service providers to deliver windows applications and desktops as a cloud service with unique capabilities such as:

Multi-tenancy – A must for cloud delivery. Each customer gets a separate virtual environment to ensure security while cloud providers are able to manage multiple customers under one platform.

Self Service of virtual desktops – Simple provisioning from the cloud enables self-service for IT of full VDI, shared session remote desktop service (RDS) desktops and applications without the need to procure hardware or software.

Grid-based architecture for elastic scalability – Advanced architecture enables unlimited scalability across multiple geographies and data centers.

Low cost of delivery – Open source based technology eliminates Microsoft licensing fees and third-party software management, resulting in cost savings over competitive desktop virtualization offerings.

Snapshot analysis

While Desktone and its competitors have been slowly building an ecosystem of service providers that offer Windows desktops and applications as a service offering, this approach hasn’t taken over the market. Concerns about the ability to comply with regulations, data security, reliability, performance and about the true cost of running desktop images remotely has kept this approach from being adopted by everyone, everywhere.

Peter McKay, DeskTone’s CEO, summarized what his customers have said when I spoke with him a year ago. He said that customers are looking for the following things:

The constant need to update operating systems, application frameworks, applications and database software. The service provider can take on these tasks and allow companies to focus on their business.

The emergence of smartphones, tablets and other intelligent network-enabled devices as a platform. Virtual desktop systems can be accessed from these devices when needed and from more traditional access point devices, such as laptop and desktop computers, the rest of the time.

Difficult transitions from one operating system to another. Peter pointed out that many organizations are still relying on Microsoft\’s Windows XP as the platform for their desktop computing. Upgrades to Windows 7 or Windows 8 typically mean replacing the user\’s device. DaaS makes it possible for those devices to work through their useful life while the work moves to an updated environment offered as a service.

Peter, as one would expect, is always very enthusiastic about Desktone’s technology and ecosystem. It is likely that Desktone’s products will be attractive to even more partners now that VMware is behind them.

via VMware acquires Desktone: Is your next desktop going to live in the cloud? | ZDNet.

VMware re-virtualizes networks and storage to keep pace with the cloud

SAN FRANCISCO—VMware is still the big kahuna in virtualization, and the company is hosting its annual VMworld conference this week to show off the latest shiny bits of software that businesses can buy for their data centers. We’ll be covering the event in San Francisco to keep you up to date.
Details on the VMware public cloud service that will compete against Amazon could be in the offing. While servers and cloud computing will dominate the agenda today, updates on end user computing (possibly including dual-persona phones) will come tomorrow. For now, we can talk about the new products VMware was willing to reveal in advance of the show.
Along with a new version of its core vSphere virtualization platform, VMware is unveiling new software to virtualize networks and storage. All of these tools, when combined with the forthcoming public cloud service, will help VMware stay competitive against the likes of Microsoft, Red Hat, and the open source OpenStack cloud infrastructure-as-a-service platform.
Today, the company is announcing VMware NSX, network virtualization software designed to “deliver the entire networking and security model from Layer2 to Layer 7 in software, decoupled from underlying networking hardware,” in VMware’s words. It’s not exactly a new product—it combines VMware’s existing vCloud and Network Security (vCNS) tools with the technology of Nicira, which VMware bought a year ago.
The core parts of NSX include logical switches and routers along with a RESTful API for integration into third-party cloud management platforms, plus a logical firewall, load balancer, and VPN.
“The platform is built around a controller cluster that manages the distribution of logical network functions into hypervisors throughout the data center,” VMware said. “The NSX platform delivers the base Layer 2 and Layer 3 network virtualization with add-on software modules for specific Layer 4-7 network services, such as firewall, load balancer and VPN.”
While NSX integrates with vSphere and the vCloud Director and Automation Center management tools, it also works with hypervisors and management software beyond VMware’s. That includes the Xen Server and KVM hypervisors and the OpenStack and CloudStack cloud management platforms.
NSX will be available in Q4 2013 for a price that has not yet been announced. But the basic networking components that VMware already offers are available in the main vSphere platform, which VMware customers typically own.
“The vCloud Networking and Security that are already in the core vSphere platform will remain there at least for now,” Gartner virtualization analyst Chris Wolf told Ars via e-mail. “I expect customers that just want basic network virtualization features to stick with vCNS.” vCNS includes a virtual firewall, VPN, and load balancing.
Big, virtual data
Beyond networking, VMware is virtualizing storage—and not for the first time. vSphere already has a virtual storage platform, but VMware said it’s going to provide something better in the form of Virtual SAN (vSAN). This lets IT shops “instantly provision VM storage using simple policies” and scale storage capacity and performance up automatically as a cluster of virtual servers grows.
“vSAN is a big deal,” Wolf said. “With vSAN, customers can pool local storage on servers and create a storage network without needing any traditional SAN hardware—just servers and local disks. This is a big component for enabling the software-defined data center, and over the long term, vSAN can help organizations reduce their reliance on hardware-based storage solutions. We expect clients to start using vSAN in dev/test environments as a way to cut costs and potentially expand vSAN deployments to VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] workloads as well.”
One big difference between vSAN and VMware’s previous storage software is that “you can use local storage and still be able to take advantage of live migration [the ability to move virtual servers from one physical machine to another with no downtime] and high availability,” Wolf said. “Previously, organizations would need a third party product like the HP Lefthand VSA to do it. Also, vSAN storage is replicated and highly available. So if a server fails you won’t lose any data.”
vSAN is heading into a public beta, and general availability is planned for the first half of 2014.
As for the core virtualization platform, VMware is unveiling vSphere with Operations Management version 5.5. A vSphere instance can now manage 320 physical CPUs, up from 160 in vSphere 5.1. Memory support was doubled to 4TB, and support for virtual CPUs doubles to 4,096. The maximum size of a VMDK (virtual machine disk) has dramatically risen from 2TB to 62TB.
Beyond the numbers, some new features make it easier to deploy certain applications and recover from failure. vSphere is now better able to handle the needs of applications requiring low latency, such as in-memory databases, VMware said. Also, a new “Flash Read Cache” virtualizes server-side flash storage to provide a “high performance read cache later that dramatically lowers application latency.”
A new high availability feature places an agent inside a virtual machine to monitor the traffic and activity of the application running inside. When something abnormal happens, the VM can be automatically rebooted or a notification can be sent to an administrator. Previously, VMware high availability software would not necessarily realize an application was misbehaving if the virtual machine itself looked fine, VMware product marketing executive Peter Wei told Ars.
Full Story: VMware re-virtualizes networks and storage to keep pace with the cloud | Ars Technica.