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Project Horizon: VMware's plan to restitch the desktop

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VMworld VMware has released new versions of its View virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and its ThinApp application streaming software, while promising some sort of consumer "cloud identity" offering sometime next year.

View 4.5 offers support for the FIPS 140-2 security protocol required by the US government for protecting sensitive data and support for a wider variety of devices, which you can review here. VMware also says that View 4.5 includes the first "enterprise-grade" offline VDI capability.

But as Raj Mallempati, director of enterprise desktop marketing at VMware, concedes, this functionality is rather familiar. It previewed with View 3.0 back in December 2008 and was further enhanced with View 4.0 in November 2009.

With this offline capability, you get and download a virtual machine image for the first time on a PC, and then after that, each time you have a network connection, only the changed data on the VM image is moved back and forth between the PC and the central servers where the VDI images live. (Presumably the software is good enough to know what to do when both sides change at the same time).

Mallempati says that the encrypted, hosted hypervisor that runs atop Windows or Linux with View 4.5 is acceptable for employees who own their machines and contractors. Citrix invented the encrypted XenVault directory for PCs precisely because it says contractors and employees who own their PCs don't want to install a VM with a corporate operating system and application image on their machine. They just want to have applications streamed down to their machines and IT managers just want the data secured.

View 4.5 supports Windows 7, of course, and VMware is pitching its VDI wares as a means of cutting the cost of migrating older Windows machines to Windows 7 – by as much as 50 per cent over deploying Windows 7 on new machines, according to Mallempati.

The big enhancement that comes with the ThinApp 4.6 application streaming software that is often paired with View is that it can package up a virtualized instance of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 browser, which has been sent to the graveyard because it is more insecure than a teenage boy, and deploy it on 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7 PCs. There are a bunch of other smaller feature tweaks, which you can read about here.

View 4.5 will be available on September 9. It comes in two editions. View 4.5 Enterprise Edition includes vSphere 4 for desktops (that's the hosted hypervisor), vCenter 4, and View Manager 4.5, at a cost of $150 per concurrent user. View 4.5 Premier Edition adds the offline access feature to View Manager and tosses in ThinApp and View Composer; it costs $250 per concurrent user. ThinApp 4.6 is available now if you want to buy it separately, and prices start at $5,000 for a perpetual license.

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Next page: Project Horizon

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