Microsoft’s announcement yesterday of Massachusetts based Sentillion extends its reach into healthcare solutions and added a new component to its virtualization portfolio. Sentillion’s vThere is a type-2 hypervisor (hosted virtual machine) built on Parallels virtualization whose strength is in its ability to provide a highly secured desktop image on a normally non-secured solution.
Hosted virtual desktops such as Microsoft Virtual PC and VMware Workstation offer great features and flexibility for providing localized virtual desktops but have not been able to provide the level of security on the virtual disk images themselves to make them suitable for more that development and test environments.
Virtual Disk Security
vThere encrypts the file allocation table of the entire virtual disk image and Sentillion’s claim is that this encryption makes it impossible to extract content out of it in the event of a breach. Sentillion’s core solutions have focused on healthcare, one of the most highly regulated industries specifically around privacy and security of data and they have brought that focus to their desktop virtualization solution as well. Additional policies are available that keep the virtual disk image tied to the host, preventing unauthorized copying of the virtual disks and mounting them on another machine. These are the two key features that make this solution compelling to IT security.
The Offline Desktop is Not New
For several years now there have been multiple solutions to provide off-line desktops to users. Moka5 LivePC and VMware ACE are two such solutions which provide type-2 policy controlled off-line desktops. The initial challenge with these solutions was the distribution of the virtual disk images to the end users. IT administrators would need to send out full images on CD/DVDs, USB drives or have the client download through a secure connection. Moka5 and Sentillion added Web portal distribution options, but still requiring a download of the entire virtual disk image which in some cases could be in the 10’s of Gigabytes.
The major benefit of a hosted solution is that the requirements to run the virtual desktops is only limited by the amount of local disk and RAM and not the processor as it is with the Type-1 hypervisor solutions from Citrix, VMware and VirtualComputer. Off-line virtual desktops can be delivered today without having to perform a costly hardware upgrade.
Med-V for XP and Perhaps Mac?
Corporate trends are showing that Windows XP is not going away as the corporate desktop even as prices of PC hardware continue to drop. The price of upgrading to Windows 7 is still a daunting task and a huge operational expense. Microsoft’s desktop virtualization solutions, including the MDOP suite, were released focusing on enhancing Windows Vista and Windows 7 desktop environments leaving Windows XP users without the enhanced toolset. The integration of vThere into the portfolio may provide a bridge for Windows XP users and since the Sentillion solution is built on top of Parallels virtualization there is a good chance that corporate Mac users could also reap the benefits.
The acquisition is targeted to be completed in 2010 and if we follow Microsoft’s trend we could expect to see the vThere technology integration into the virtual desktop suite in 2011. For the complete press release please follow this link – MICROSOFT DEEPENS INVESTMENT IN HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY WITH ACQUISITION OF SENTILLION.