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VDI on display at VMware analyst day

VMware kindly invited me for the tail-end of its annual Analyst Day held at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Mass. yesterday, where I got to see some product demos and drink a Mojito. And while I would much rather have sat in on the NDA briefings with which they regaled the analyst community, it was nevertheless an interesting visit.

The biggest thing I learned at Analyst Day was the VDI is in fact, not doomed. A VDI demo by Karthik Balachandran, a VMware senior consultant, put all my fears of a terrible VDI end user experience to rest. Karthik showed to me that, indeed, working on a Wyse thin client was really no different than me typing away at my traditional “fat client” desktop. Granted, I didn’t try to download any video, as the thin client didn’t have an Internet connection. Plus, he confirmed that video and VDI, for now, wouldn’t have worked so well, since we’d have to transmit all that video over Ethernet. But for simple office applications, I can attest to the fact that the VDI user experience is more than adequate.

Karthik assured me that VDI will work well with a network latency of up to 150 milliseconds, and told me that there are several VDI proof-of-concepts that go from coast to coast, and even a couple of companies doing intercontinental VDI!

Another cool thing Karthik showed me is that by suspending my desktop at the end of the day rather than by logging off, I could go home, log in again, and find my desktop in the exact same state — with all my applications running exactly as when I left them. Intellectually, I knew this was possible, but it had never really dawned on me how cool it was until I saw it. Kind of like Firefox’s session manager, only better.

Then there’s the issue of mobility. Today, VDI is a non-starter for anyone that travels and wants to take their desktop with them — like, oh, 99% of “knowledge workers.” Rest assured, VMware is on the case. Karthik and I talked — hypothetically of course — about the eventual integration of VDI with VMware ACE, whose “pocket ace” feature lets you save your VM to an external USB drive. Mobility problem solved.

Last but not least, Karthik showed me some features of VMware’s own connection broker VDM. He showed me how you could set up “sticky” or dynamic desktops, and do things like assign desktop leases or dynamically grow your desktop pool. Cool stuff. VDM is currently in its 1.0 incarnation, and 2.0 will ship by the end of the year, complete with functionality the company picked up in the Propero acquisition. What features specifically will come from Propero, he couldn’t tell me. Oh well, something to look forward to.

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