Wanova promises virtual desktop you can use
Wanova, which has just come out of stealth mode having landed its first batch of venture capital dough, has claimed a new - and more importantly, a usable - twist on virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI.
There are a lot of different approaches to VDI, but the basic idea is that you host virtualized instances of PC operating systems back in the data center and then stream them down to thin clients out on the network or linking in through virtual private networks.
This all sounds good, and relatively easy, until end users lose their network connection or have to work in offline mode - such as when they are traveling and on an airplane. Then, VDI basically turns your machine, be it a desktop PC or a laptop, into a very big paperweight.
There are other issues with VDI, such as the fact that the performance end users experience as they run their desktop applications depends in large measure on whatever else is going on in the corporate network.
Even with some clever engineering in some VDI setups to render multimedia files and graphics locally on the device - and not over a network link back on the servers - the desktop experience can be clunky.
And it can also be expensive, with maybe somewhere between 25 and 30 virtual Windows desktop images tops being packed onto a single server.
Issy Ben-Shaul, one of the founders at Wanova, was the chief technology officer at Cisco Systems' Application Delivery business unit, which sells stuff to accelerate applications delivered from data centers and which competes with products from Riverbed, Citrix Systems, NetEx, and others.
Cisco bought its way into the application acceleration biz when it acquired Actona Technologies in 2004. Ben-Shaul was one of the co-founders of Actona, along with Ilan Kessler, who was a researcher at IBM and Qualcomm and who has joined Ben-Shaul again in founding Wanova. Kessler reprises his role as chief executive, and Ben-Shaul his role as chief technology officer at the new company.
The idea behind Wanova Mirage is simple enough: blend the best of the VDI approach with running a local copy of an operating system on a laptop or desktop PC client. Wanova will be demonstrating its Mirage product at the VMworld extravaganza in San Francisco, California, next week, and plans to do a formal product announcement sometime in the fourth quarter.
Ben-Shaul was willing to give a few hints about how the new product will work.
Instead of moving the desktop image back into the data center and trying to serve it over the network to end users, as VDI does, Mirage takes a gold image of a PC operating system configured for a user working from a laptop and stores it back in the data center.
The laptop doesn't try to run this image stored on the server, but rather a cache copy of this image that is disposable.
If laptop users lose their network link, they can keep on working with their applications because they were always running a cached copy of the gold image locally. That also means Windows runs at local speed and has the normal PC experience.
For now, Wanova is focusing on mobile users, but its software can be used to provision desktops and servers, too.
"We're often asked if we can support servers," says Ben-Shaul. "There is no distinction, technically, between a PC and a server as far as Mirage is concerned. We are positioned for the mobile workforce today only because we see more pain here."
Conflict resolution ?
The key to this working is what happens when I turn my laptop back on and try and save a file to a directory I deleted from another machine.
So far, sounds like Dropbox would work for most people... https://www.getdropbox.com/referrals/NTU2ODAyNDk
@ Pete 2 - did you even read that?
The point here is that you are running locally but the network connection syncs the state/config of the local VM back to a server. As such you can work offline but when online be able to pick up the VM from the server and run it anywhere either by streaming it locally again, or by running it in the traditional thin-client (keyboard, video and mouse) mode.
I don't know the details and needless to say the vendors won't be so upfront on the negative aspects such as bandwidth requirements (sync at the file system level via 3G roaming anyone?) but this approach negates the need for 'honkin great servers' running 24 x 7 regardless of the load.
Citrix XenClient anybody?
Sounds just like it, take a look here:
One standard corporate image, streamed down to laptops. Citrix ensures it's fully encrypted on the client side, so there are no concerns if a laptop is lost or stolen, and you get to run two virtual machines on each laptop. So you can have a secure corporate setup, and another version for home use.
This VDI thing - I can't shake the feeling that it's Citrix desktop all over again. That somehow got stuck in a time-warp from 1999 and has reappeared with a bunch of (forgetful) venture capitalists willing to plunk down a load of cash for something that's been done before.
No matter how you wrap up thin client computing, you still have to put a PC on user's desk - though we don't call them PCs, so that's all right then. After that, you don't use this PC (sorry: thin client) to actually run the stuff the user wants. You put a number of delays in the system and a honkin' great server - that has to keep running 24*7 even if there's only one lonely git in at weekends - and run their stuff on that instead. Along with all the other users who will each have to compete for resources at peak times, which is exactly when they need their own MAX performance - which their PC (ooops, again) has plenty of - going to waste as ill its doing is running a pretty front-end, and trying to compensate for all the inefficiencies designed into the thin clients, by thick suppliers.