VMware has updated its virtual desktop product with enhancements that make it easier to provision and manage virtual clients, and new capabilities that support mobile workers on laptops.
Released today, VMware View 3 is a rebranding of the firm's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) but with several new features. Key among these is View Composer, which can provision virtual machines by combining a fixed master image with changeable user data stored separately, dramatically cutting the storage required for virtual clients.
The second key feature is Offline Desktop, which lets a worker download their corporate virtual client onto a laptop and take it out of the office.
Tommy Armstrong, VMware's senior marketing manager for enterprise desktops, explained that the development is about broadening out virtual desktops for customers looking at more strategic deployments.
"The number one thing customers told us they need for virtual desktops is to bring down the initial capital investment, for example in storage requirements, " he said.
View Composer addresses this by splitting each virtual client into the operating system, applications and user data such as files and settings.
"Firms can manage lots of clones linked back to a single master image. Any commonality - Windows XP, service packs - is in that 'golden master'. The deltas [differences], which contain anything unique, can be much smaller," Armstrong said.
This can reduce storage requirements by up to 90 per cent compared with traditional virtual desktop deployments, VMware claimed, as well as enabling centralised patching and backup of the virtual clients.
Meanwhile, Offline Desktop enables firms to implement a virtual desktop strategy even if they have roaming users or some workers connected via a high latency connection. It combines VDI with another VMware product, ACE, that lets firms distribute virtual machines with corporate policy mechanisms applied to them.
"We're bringing these together so users can connect to their virtual desktop over the network as usual, but if a user wants to run their virtual machine locally they can 'check out' their desktop and run it on the local machine," said Armstrong.
Users can check their desktop back in when they reconnect to the network, or check in a backup, a delta file that just updates the datacentre image with any changes.
This will also allow users to make use of local resources for demanding applications, such as those that are graphics-intensive, according to Armstrong.
"It's about being able to run apps where it makes most sense, being able to move the virtual machine between datacentre and the client itself, the access device, if necessary," he said.
View Manager 3, VMware's connection broker (previously called Virtual Desktop Manager) can now connect users to a Terminal Services session or to physical PCs, such as blade workstations, as well as virtual clients.
Other enhancements address the end-user experience with virtual printing support, better USB redirection and improved multimedia handling.
Virtual printing lets the user print to whichever printer is currently attached to their access device, whatever or wherever that may be, according to VMware. USB redirection now allows for a broader range of peripherals to be connected to the access device and used with the virtual desktop.
With View 3, VMware has licensed Wyse's TCX technology for better media handling. This recognises media files, such as music and video, and sends them to the endpoint access device to be played locally.
VMware View 3 currently supports only Windows, but Armstrong strongly hinted at future Mac support, enabling users to check out their Windows-based corporate virtual client to an Intel-based Mac laptop, for example.
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