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IBM takes on VMware virtual desktop

Big Blue's view different from VMware View

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IBM is taking on VMware's virtual desktop infrastructure with its own Linux and Lotus-based virtual desktop.

VMware's VDI, recently re-launched as View, ships a virtual Windows or Linux desktop to desktops, notebooks and thin client devices, and is built from a golden master file and linked clones, stored on a VMware ESX server's disks.

IBM is working with Virtual Bridges and its VERDE (Virtual Enterprise Remote Desktop Environment) product to ship a virtual Canonical Ubuntu Linux desktop, with Lotus email, word processing, spreadsheets, unified communication, and social networking software included, to a variety of end-point devices. Virtual printing is also included.

Antony Satyadas, IBM's manager for the Desktop of the Future, said: "Ubuntu is popular for desktop Linux installations, which makes it a good match for this offering. ... We are also working with Novell and RedHat on Linux-based desktops.

"VERDE is providing an end-to-end, top-to-bottom Microsoft-free solution compared to VMware's Windows-based solution. Because this solution relies on open standards-based applications, OS and VDI as one complete Microsoft-free solution, VERDE is much less expensive to procure and deploy while providing all functions. There is no vendor lock-in on storage or server platforms. It runs on any x86 Linux server, talks to any SAN/NAS. It runs Linux workloads as well as Windows workloads in VDI environment. The open platform allows easy integration with any vendor backup, security, or access solutions."

Asked if any storage efficiencies are gained in storing these Ubuntu virtual desktops on the Linux server though golden master files or some form of de-duplication, he said: "Yes, with a global image. There is only one copy of the OS and it's shared with all virtual desktops. The only unique data is the contents of each user's /home directory."

The possible end-point devices include "any device, wired or wireless, that talks X11, VNC, RDP, or runs x86 Linux or Windows and can run our rich client application. This covers most every type of popular client out there, including PCs, laptops, workstations, thin clients, as well as today's subnotebook, wireless, and mobile PCs."

There are IBM migration facilities available for users to move from a Microsoft Office desktop to the Ubuntu/Lotus one.

Who needs a Windows PC anyway?

The anti-Microsoft message in all this was emphasised by Inna Kuznetsova, IBM's Linux Strategy director: “When we look back several years from now, I think we’ll see this time as an inflection point when the economic climate pushed the virtual Linux desktop from theory to practice. The financial pressures on organizations are staggering; the management of PCs is unwieldy, and traditional office software innovation is paltry. Today’s virtual desktop is delivering superior collaborative software, an innovative delivery method, and an open-source operating system that is demanding clients’ consideration.”

Given that the majority of corporate desktops run Windows this IBM offering, which doesn't ship Windows to the end-point devices, will be limited to Linux-only shops.

Windows shops will be encouraged by IBM and its resellers to migrate to virtual Linux desktops by sales reps pushing a cost-savings message. IBM reckons customers could save $500 to $800 per user on software license costs annually, $258 per user on avoiding hardware upgrade, a 90 per cent savings of desk-side PC support, 75 per cent on security/user administration, 50 per cent of help desk services such as password resets, and 50 per cent for software installations, which are replaced by software publishing. Who needs a Windows PC?

These cost savings are based on a Windows PC desktop comparison. Savings against a VMware View comparison will be much less and the Windows compatibility and Windows/Linux virtual desktop OS neutrality in VMware View may outweigh IBM's Linux VDI arguments. ®

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