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.

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