On Wednesday, March 12, Microsoft announced that it will acquire Redwood City, Calif.-based Kidaro Inc., a provider of client-side desktop virtualization technology that is often compared to VMware Assured Computing Environment, or ACE. And while Kidaro is a relatively small fish in the virtualization-provider pond, some observers believe that the acquisition fills a clear void in Microsoft's virtualization strategy.
Like VMware ACE, Kidaro's products run an encapsulated desktop operating system that runs directly on an end user's client machine or off a USB device like a thumb drive. They also offer security and policy management capabilities to lock down desktops and help administrators centrally manage remote, disconnected desktops.
In addition, in Kidaro's virtual desktop implementation, applications appear in a seamless dedicated window, which makes them look as though they run on the system's base operating system. VMware Inc. and Parallelsoffer comparable technology as part of their Apple desktop virtualization products, VMware Fusion's Unity and Parallels Desktop's Coherence, respectively.
But Kidaro and VMware ACE are fundamentally different from server-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) approaches such as VMware VDI and Citrix XenDesktop, in which a virtual desktop runs on a central server but is displayed to an end user's device using a protocol like RDP.
A predictable acquisition?
Even though Kidaro is a relative unknown, server-based computing expert Brian Madden was completely unsurprised by the acquisition. With existing products in server-based computing (Terminal Services) and application streaming (SoftGrid), it was just a matter of time before Microsoft got into virtual desktops. "This was definitely a hole in Microsoft's product offerings," Madden said. "I would have bet my salary that Microsoft was going to get into virtual desktops."
In and of itself, Kidaro is just one of many small desktop virtualization players that have sprung up over the past couple of years, similar to vendors like Calista Technologies (acquired by Microsoft in January) and Teradici Corp. While they tend to have a couple really strong customer references, mainly in the financial services sector, "outside of that, you never hear of them anywhere," Madden said.And while the topic of virtual desktops has garnered a lot of interest of late, the technology has its detractors. Last fall, in an email to SearchServerVirtualization.com, Michael Brennan, a principal at Advanced Logic Corp., a consulting company in Barrington, Ill. cast doubt on the viability of client-side desktop virtualization. "I find it puzzling that the industry is now considering client-side virtualization at all," he wrote. "It will doubtlessly add to the total cost of ownership of the most expensive computing devices in the environment and poses a security risk for the data in the virtual machines (VMs). It also adds a layer of complexity to the user experience that has already been eliminated by the secure deployment of applications and information on corporate portals."
That said, IT professionals are just beginning to internalize the differences between all the new approaches to delivering desktops and applications, Madden said, and coupled with the trend toward employee-owned desktops, "this year could be a real inflection point for virtual desktops."
Microsoft's plan for Kidaro
Once the acquisition is complete, Microsoft says it will offer the Kidaro technology as part of its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) for Software Assurance, giving IT administrators the following capabilities:
- streamlined deployment of virtual PCs;
- simplified migrations to the Windows Vista desktop operating system by minimizing application incompatibilities;
- better disaster recovery of corporate desktops; and
- better control of user desktops, by enabling IT to deliver "locked down" virtual PCs.
As part of MDOP, the Kidaro technology will join other Microsoft facilities, such as Microsoft Application Virtualization; Microsoft Asset Inventory Service; Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management; Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset; and Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring.
Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
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