IBM makes appealing virtual desktop play for the midmarket

IBM Virtual Desktop targets rivals with broad platform support, enterprise-level offline capabilities, and competitive pricing

IBM today announced a VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) offering aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, a play that could lure holdouts to abandon or at least supplement raditional device-bound desktop computing for the flexibility of virtualization.

Like rival virtual desktop wares from competitors such as Citrix, Microsoft, and VMare, IBM's Virtual Desktop is designed to give end-users continuous access to their personal desktops, both Windows and Linux, via other computing devices, such as laptops, netbooks, tablets, and thin clients. Meanwhile, a virtual desktop setup gives IT admins a way to centrally manage end-users' desktop instances, as they all can reside on hardware in, say, a server room instead of on disparate machines.

IBM is playing catch-up in this space, but its offering -- available through Big Blue's partner channels -- has alluring features that set it apart from competitors. At least some of the credit goes to its use of a VDI solution from Verde Software called Virtual Bridges, which runs on Linux server and the KVM hypervisor.

IBM's Virtual Desktop offers a level of offline support that midmarket alternatives don't. Specifically, most desktop virtualization products either support running the workspace on the server or on the client -- but not both. IBM does do both, so users effectively always have access to their desktop, whether or not they're connected to the Internet. If a connection is dropped, the client will sync up with the server, ensuring nothing is lost.

Additionally, IBM claims its VDI technology supports more virtual desktops per single server: 200, compared to the 30 to 50 supported by rival midmarket solutions.

One other notable difference: IBM's offering is priced at $150 per year before assorted costs relating to consulting and implementation services, as well as OS licenses. The rivals examined by The InfoWorld Test Center were priced at between $250 and $500 per seat; plus, they only supported Windows guests, whereas IBM's supports Linux guests as well.

Follow Ted Samson on Twitter at tsamson_iw.

This article, "IBM makes appealing virtual desktop play for the midmarket," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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