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VMware sharpens axe for PCs: Horizon boxset brings Windows to iPads

Control systems, access files from 'droids, iThings, slabs, desktops

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After eighteen months of hints, VMware has unveiled the final version of its “Horizon Suite” end-user computing stack.

VMware has wanted more of a desktop presence for years, shelling out for Zimbra in 2010 in the hope enterprises liked the idea of webified email and calendars operating within their own data centres.

Zimbra's not set the world on fire, but the rise and rise of bring your own device (as a meme, if not a reality) saw the virty giant articulate a vision for a product capable of piping enterprise assets such as files, desktops and software-as-a-service subscriptions into any device a user cares to take out into the big bad world.

Horizon is the final form of that vision and comprises three components:

  1. Horizon View 5.2 to define and deliver virtual desktops
  2. Horizon Mirage 4 to manage PCs and/or PC images
  3. Horizon Workspace 1.0 to control permissions for resource access on endpoints

Only Workspace is an entirely new product and even it brings together bits of what VMware has in the past called Project Octopus, Project AppBlast and Project AppShift, while the ThinApp, Horizon Application Manager and Horizon Mobile products have all been stripped of their useful bits and reassembled as Horizon Workspace.

The product is designed to give sysadmins the chance to set up profiles for users that define the data, applications and subscriptions they are permitted to access. Subscriptions are very important to VMware as it wants its version of BYOD to see IT departments sign up for enterprise-wide software-as-a-service deals and then dole out access through the IT department instead of allowing a free-for-all as users connect to business' accounts through unmanaged devices.

Once that profile has been established, users can grab software from a corporate app store and access them on any device they choose, provided it runs Windows, Mac OS X, iOS or Android. When they do so, they'll be asked to log on to Workspace with two-factor authentication. Workspace handles sign-on to third-party services, with a little help from SAML.

The combined effect of the suite means that when staff log on they see a familiar file tree if that's what IT wants. Icons denoting bootable desktops are on offer, if provisioned, as are icons to launch SaaS services.

At a Sydney press event VMware demonstrated Windows running happily on an iPad, and Office apps running in that instance of Windows, to show off the new suite's capabilities. The Reg was also shown access to a file server. Horizon View has been enhanced so it can now deliver the desktop experience into browsers thanks to HTML5.

VMware's Sydney event wheeled out a beta tester, the University of Wollongong, which professing a liking for what it's seen so far in a pilot for 50 users. The uni said Horizon could be just the thing it needs to ensure tablet-toting students can see the files they need without academics needing to resort to DropBox.

The hypervisor-maker hopes that opinion is widely shared, but it is also putting plenty of resources into making Horizon Suite a success. Duncan Bennett, VMware's vice-president and managing director for Australia and New Zealand, told The Reg the company has hired a new sales and support team to promote the product.

Bennett expressed a hope that the some of the company's server virtualisation customers would be low-hanging fruit for Horizon, Fresh meat is also on the menu, as VMware seeks routes to growth beyond virtualisation and the nascent software-defined data centre. ®

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