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VMware has unveiled the latest version of its ESX-based virtualization software to capitalize on Microsoft's rollout of Windows 7.

The company has launched VMware View 4.0, featuring a new communications protocol called PC-over-IP to provide real-time screen rendering, plus the ability to deploy and manage tens of thousands of virtualized desktops without the need for custom engineering.

Planned for the first-half of 2010, meanwhile, is a native hypervisor so that PCs can run offline, using the machine's local resources, and then synchronize when re-connected to the network.

View 4.0 will come in two flavors - enterprise and premier, priced $150 and $250 per concurrent user. The former features vSphere, vCenter, and View Manager, while the latter features these plus View Composer for single-image management and storage and application virtualization and ThinApp 4 for working on thin clients.

VMware believes the changes will bring desktop virtualization to a mass market of power users in addition to more traditional types in call centers through the addition of things like PC-over-IP.

PC-over-IP was a hardware protocol VMware licensed from Teradici and that was used in high-end graphics and CAD. The companies have implemented PC-o-IP in software to run provide real-time rendering of graphics like Flash and text in the virtualized desktop.

It's never a smart idea to introduce a new protocol, so VMware's made sure it's got the backing for partners for PC-over-IP - Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, IBM and Wyse.

On management, VMware claims View 4.0 will now scale to tens of thousands of PCs out of the box, beyond the previous 500 to 1,000 PCs. The View 4.0 vSphere ESX-based virtualization component on the desktop and View Manager management server have both been updated to support what VMware called "multiple connections at scale". View Manager will authenticate users against Microsoft's Active Directory.

So what does this have to do with Microsoft and Windows 7?

VMware believes the vSphere 4.0 changes in performance and management will make its desktop virtualization attractive to organizations rolling out Windows 7. Rather than paying Microsoft for client copies, they can run virtualized instances instead, potentially saving on licensing, and the work of rollout and on-going management by working through instances and images.

In particular VMware's making a pitch for those with legacy Windows XP applications. Windows 7 introduces Windows XP Mode to run Windows XP applications on the desktop. With vSphere 4.0, though, VMware will let you run both Windows 7 and Windows XP, while also managing the rollout of Windows 7 using just a single Windows 7 image.

Separately, VMware is today expected to announce partnerships with four hardware companies building reference architectures based on View 4.0. Cisco Systems and EMC, HP and Dell will provide architectures around computing, storage, networking and software, with Cisco and EMC also providing services. NetApp will provide storage reference architecture. ®

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