IBM inks deal with VMware for virtual desktops

Single BladeCenter can handle as many as 168 virtual desktops

IBM will announce today a deal with VMware to create the IBM Virtualized Hosted Client.

The client infrastructure will give datacenters the capability to use IBM’s BladeCenter technology to create an average of 12 to 14 virtual desktops per blade. A  BladeCenter chassis contains 14 blades that can be linked to hundreds of additional BladeCenters, according to Juhi Jotwani, director of Blade Center and X Series Solutions at IBM.

The VMware software creates multiple virtual machines so that users can run multiple desktops with multiple operating systems.

"Typically, this is a two-processor blade and VMware slices that up into dozens of OS copies," said Brian Byun, vice president of strategic alliances at VMware.

However, although there are a great many companies probing different types of thin client models, no one particular system has taken off in a major way, according to Gordon Haff, a senior analyst at Illuminata.

"It is a question of the devil you know," explained Haff, pointing out that IT will wonder how much desktop capacity the servers can handle and whether applications will run unchanged.

The interest in a virtual desktop run from a server comes mainly from IT looking to reduce management costs. "This is about reducing administrative costs more than about security," Haff said.

In addition, thin client solutions may be more expensive up front. Furthermore, IT in general is skeptical of TCO studies that purport to show savings down the road, Haff said.

Despite some skepticism on the part of Haff, IBM's Jotwani said there are real benefits to be gained from using virtual desktops, including higher server utilization (up to 80 percent), reduction in the number of servers to manage, easier patch and application management, and security.

The Virtual Hosted Client is available for pilot immediately from IBM Global Services. Full availability will be in first quarter.

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