Desktop virtualization, a year in review

The desktop virtualization year opened with a bang at CES with the explosion of vendor announcements introducing the next generation of mobile tablets.  The obvious winner this year being Apple and the iPad but with many more vendors showing off Windows-based tablets including  HP, Archos and Pegatron, as well as Android tablets from manufacturers such as Archos (again), Compal, Dell, HP (again), and Motorola.  The key challenge of course being the delivery of existing enterprise applications onto these platforms, something that’s desktop virtualization and presentation virtualization is ideally suited for.  The inescapable consequence of this was a steady stream of announcements from Citrix, VMware, and Wyse as they leapfrogged each other’s announcements on availability, functionality, and usability of their respective mobile tablet client offerings.  The level of competitiveness here producing major benefits for potential adopters as each strove to outdo the other in terms of user experience innovation and performance.
While the level of innovation around tablets as endpoints translated directly into real products, a similar efforts to develop mobile hypervisor solutions has not yet delivered any concrete benefits.  Citrix continued to promote its Nirvana Phone concept while VMware wheeled out its Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP), but neither has crossed over from lab to product this year, despite the obvious benefits that a mobile hypervisor offers.
On the other hand, the client hypervisor did see significant advancements on the desktop this year.  Virtual Computer started the client hypervisor year by shipping NxTop 2.0 in March followed that up with NxTop 3.0 at VMworld in August, also announcing its partnership with Quest to produce an integrated server and client hosted desktop virtualization solution.  VMware launched View 4.5 with support for disconnected operation running on a type II hypervisor, MokaFive launched MokaFive Suite 3.0 again with support for a type II hypervisor and just missed out on releasing its own bare metal solution before the end of the year. Wanova also got in on the action, with the launch of Wanova Mirage an innovative hypervisor-less desktop virtualization solution in March two weeks before virtual computer shipped NxTop 2.0.
Goes without saying that the core server hosted virtual desktop solution space store significant announcements with new releases from Citrix, Quest, and VMware.  Notably, while View 4.5 was considered good enough to meet Burton Group’s (now part of Gartner) criteria for use as an enterprise class server hosted virtual desktop solution it did not meet all expectations, failing to deliver any return from its previous acquisition of RTO, by dropping RTO’s profile management software from the 4.5 release, and disappointing many in the process.
Microsoft made its own contribution to desktop virtualization by announcing some far-reaching changes in the way that it chooses to license Windows 7 for virtual desktop platforms. While the changes did not go far enough to satisfy some people, the changes were as much as anyone could reasonably expect it to offer without further pressure from customers and competitive threats imposed by non-Windows based desktop solutions. The biggest shortfall with Microsoft’s new licensing policy is in the area of public cloud hosted desktop as a service. This could well slow adoption of otherwise very attractive services built on technology provided buy leading Desktone and to a lesser degree Virtual Bridges both of which introduced updates to their core platform offerings in the latter part of the year.
Cisco brought its year to a close with the announcement in November of Cisco Virtual Desktop Experience (VDX) an open desktop virtualization reference architecture based on the Cisco UCS platform with either Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View providing the software platform.  Cisco rounded out the announcements with the introduction of two new thin client devices including one designed to connect directly into the back of Cisco’s Unified Communications IP phones.
And finally, that old conversation on standby, the weather made its mark on desktop virtualization this year.  After last winter’s snow storms brought to Washington DC to a standstill Congress has finally approved legislation promoting telework for federal employees. With much of Europe at a standstill today for precisely the same reasons, perhaps we can expect similar initiatives to drive desktop virtualization adoption higher in Europe in 2011.
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