10 big virtualization and cloud stories from 2013

2013 saw big news around acquisitions, community takeovers, new products, new markets, product deaths, and more FUD

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3. End-user security improved with new Bromium microvisors

Let's face it: As more and more employees are allowed to work remotely, the likelihood that an end-user's environment (or more to the point, the corporate environment itself) will become infected goes up dramatically. Why? Because mobile users often need to access enterprise applications and the Web while on an untrusted network that could be used to attack the endpoint.

In 2013 we saw a host of new end-user devices hit the market, and we watched as the workforce became much more mobile. While that freedom may have increased productivity and worker happiness, it also added a significant challenge to companies' security threat levels.

One of the companies attempting to address the endpoint security challenge was Bromium, which first caught my attention in 2011 when it emerged from stealth mode. It continued to keep my interest throughout 2013 with its unique approach to solving desktop security via microvirtualization in a product called vSentry. The technology isolates advanced attacks targeting the endpoint through Web, email, and documents; vSentry also protects desktops without requiring patches or updates, defeating and automatically discarding all malware and eliminating the need for costly remediation.

In June, Bromium made news with the release of vSentry 2.0, which improved end-user mobility and collaboration. The release focused on safe collaboration, giving users the ability to access and edit content without ever having to trust it because these things always run in a micro-VM. But one of the interesting twists with that release was that the company began using the Xen hypervisor for its microvisor technology, taking advantage of the virtualization benefits that Xen already provided as well as being able to further reduce the size of its own code base. Since a few of the founders of Bromium came from XenSource, the company that originally created Xen, it seemed like a coming-home party.

4. Nvidia accelerates desktop virtualization with virtual GPUs

Desktop virtualization technologies continued to advance, and because of that, VDI companies were able to gain momentum throughout 2013. The technology provides an organization with increased flexibility, manageability, and security, but one of the drawbacks has been that it cannot support all company use cases. Specifically, VDI has been plagued with not being able to support those users running applications requiring high-impact graphics.

In 2013 I witnessed firsthand how this tide is changing, visiting with Nvidia at Citrix Synergy, VMworld, and finally at Dell World to see the changes being made to a product offering from Nvidia called Grid.

Nvidia's Grid offering is a server product and graphics board that allows a company to connect GPUs to a growing number of virtualization and cloud deployments. Nvidia currently produces two options: a dedicated GPU pass-through, which means a single VM would get access to a single GPU (a solution showcased back in 2012 but that doesn't scale); and a new virtual GPU, which allows multiple users to share a single physical GPU.

By delivering fast 3D graphics capabilities to a virtual desktop from a hosted server in the data center, Nvidia may have touched on one of the key missing components of a VDI environment, also known as the VDI Holy Grail. That's why major hardware manufacturers like Cisco, Dell, HP, and IBM have been lining up to provide servers powered by Nvidia Grid technology.

By leveraging Nvidia's virtualized desktop graphics capability, the following types of businesses and verticals can finally benefit from VDI technology: architects and engineers using computer-aided design (CAD) tools; businesses using PLM tools for manufacturing applications; digital-content creators using video and photo editing software; and health care specialists using picture archiving and communication system (PACS) applications.

5. VMware acquires Desktone to enhance its DaaS story

VMware continues to face increased challenges in the server virtualization market, so the company has been searching for alternative revenue sources. Because of its server virtualization expertise, VMware has been trying to capture market share within the desktop virtualization market; in 2013 end-user computing became one of the company's new primary focuses.

In August the company hired former SAP executive Sanjay Poonen to head up the end-user computing division, and in October VMware announced the acquisition of Desktone, a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) vendor and VMware partner. With the acquisition, VMware instantly became a DaaS solution provider while at the same time validating the DaaS market for others.

Poonen explained: "As cloud adoption quickly gains acceptance, the market is ripe to leverage cloud technologies to deliver alternative desktop management and application delivery solutions and provide customers with a more flexible, predictable and streamlined way to evolve end-user computing. DaaS gives enterprises the ability to manage costs, extend capacity on-demand, and reduce the time required when desktop loads change."

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