Double-Take Software has launched a desktop virtualisation tool for small to mid-size companies, designed to deliver the benefits of centralised management but without the costly infrastructure required for hosted virtual desktops.
Available immediately, Double-Take Flex uses a centrally stored desktop image which is streamed to a user's local machine at boot up. User data and settings are also stored centrally, making for easier backup.
This differs from the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) offered by vendors such as VMware or Citrix, in which users connect to a virtual Windows PC hosted on a server in a datacentre. While being adopted by many large organisations, these frameworks call for a large investment in back-end infrastructure.
In contrast, Double-Take Flex makes use of the PC on each user's desk to run Windows, and can be deployed with a single server storing central boot images.
"We've focused on small and mid-tier customers who are still looking for the benefits of desktop virtualisation, but are less likely to have the skills and the infrastructure for VDI," said Ian Masters, UK sales director at Double-Take.
Booting the desktops from a central image simplifies administration since updates need to be applied only once instead of being distributed to each and every computer a company owns.
"The whole point of virtual desktops is around cost. Provisioning, maintaining and replacing normal PCs is very manually intensive and therefore costly," said Masters.
"With Flex, provisioning is easy. You point the system at the master boot image, and it's done. To migrate to a new version of Windows, you just update the central image."
Flex allows customers to create a separate image for different departments, so that the accounts staff boot from an image that includes applications suited for their role, for example, while engineers or sales staff get an image with different applications.
This kind of network boot technology is not new, and similar capabilities are offered by HP Neoware Image Manager and Wyse Streaming Manager, but at £99 per seat, Double-Take's pricing puts it within the budget of smaller companies.
The price includes the server software, which turns any server into an iSCSI target to host boot images for the client PCs, a management console that also includes image creation tools, and the RES PowerFuse workspace management software, which centrally stores each user's personal desktop settings and applies them at login.
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