Virtualization in a USB drive

VMware sends ACE 2 Enterprise Edition into public beta; Virtual Iron upgrades its wares

Virtualization software leader VMware Inc. is testing a desktop virtualization program that can be stored on a USB drive and moved from one computer to another.

VMware is introducing Monday a public beta version of ACE 2 Enterprise Edition, an upgrade of its two-year-old ACE program for virtualizing desktop computers so they can run multiple software or operating systems. One of the new features is Pocket ACE, which allows the user to store the ACE desktop virtualization tool on a USB (universal serial bus) drive, a portable hard drive or an Apple iPod, plug it into a remote computer, and run the virtualization software on that computer.

The VMware news coincides with the general availability Monday of an upgraded server virtualization product from rival Virtual Iron Software Inc.

VMware's Pocket ACE is designed for mobile workers who may not have a laptop with them in the field, but could use an available desktop computer and run the company's virtualization platform from the USB drive, said Jerry Chen, director of desktop platforms and solutions for VMware.

The new ACE program also features VMware ACE Management Server, which gives a system administrator control over the virtualization program run on desktops. The administrator can control access, security settings and software updates from a single console. Changes in settings are delivered to the client computer when they connect to the corporate server. Desktop or laptop computers running VMware ACE can run the virtual desktop on their computers alongside whatever operating system and files the computer already runs, said Chen. This would suit contract employees who use their own computers when working for a client.

The administrator can also shut off the virtual desktop remotely when needed if, for example, a company gives access to its computer system for a specific contract term. Access privileges can be set to expire when the contract is completed.

Virtualization is most prevalent in the server environment where servers run multiple software applications or operating systems simultaneously. While virtualization of the desktop is a logical extension of the technology, adoption is more limited, said Charles King, president and principal analyst at Pund-IT, a technology analyst firm.

"Desktop virtualization is still a relatively unexplored territory," said King.

However, he sees value in the Pocket ACE portability feature for the increasingly mobile work force.

"As mobile and remote workers become more the norm, it gives those employers a great deal of flexibility," King said.

Also Monday, Virtual Iron said its Version 3.5 upgrade adds support for iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface) protocol for the connection between servers and storage. The iSCSI connection is one-tenth the price of the alternative fiber channel connection.

Version 3.5 also features one server installation, said Mike Grandinetti, chief marketing officer for Virtual Iron. With one server installation, the same server that runs the virtualization management program for the enterprise can also act as a virtual server.

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