Desktops will move to the cloud, VMware exec says

Vista has everyone questioning the future of the desktop, and moving to the cloud will let more companies take advantage of the economies of scale, says VMware exec

The desktop is one the areas ripe for moving into the cloud, and the driver will be lower operational costs for both large and small companies, a VMware executive said at the company's VMworld conference in Cannes.

That's not going to happen overnight, but that is where things are headed, according to Jocelyn Goldfein, general manager of the Desktop business unit at VMware, speaking in an interview Tuesday.

[ In other news from VMworld, VMware added to its cloud strategy | Learn more about what cloud computing really means | Follow the cloud with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing blog ]

"Some days I think it's four years away, and other days I think it's all going to happen way faster than we think. I think Microsoft really bobbled with Vista. It's got everyone, including home users, questioning the future of the desktop and willing to try something new," said Goldfein.

Moving to the cloud will let more companies take advantage of the economies of scale that come with managing many desktops. "People who specialize in desktop management are going to get the best economies of scale of all, and moving the desktop into an external cloud is going to let large or small enterprises, all the way down to SMBs and maybe even home users, take advantage of that," said Goldfein.

Also, most enterprises simply don't want to be in the business of managing desktops, and small to midsize businesses and home users don't want to either. Home users don't want to upgrade operating systems, patch applications or set firewall rules, according to Goldfein.

"The beauty of virtualization, because it decouples the user environment from the device, is that it actually enables someone to deliver that desktop as a service where they can't today," said Goldfein.

An important part of making desktops cloud compatible, and helping client virtualization go mainstream, is the introduction of so-called bare-metal hypervisors for client PCs. They allow the desktop to run locally without access to a network and take advantage of the PC's computing power, instead of just relying on the server.

Citrix is working with Intel to develop its CVP (Client Virtualization Platform) for Intel's Intel vPro and Centrino vPro processors, and the result will ship during the second half of the year, VMware announced on Tuesday.

VMware is usually one step a head of the competition in the virtualization space, but not in this case. Citrix already announced plans to come out with a bare-metal hypervisor for PCs, and a partnership with Intel, in January. Just like VMware, it plans to come out with its product during the second half of 2009.

"I don't think it's a land grab; the whole world isn't going to standardize on client hypervisors overnight," said Goldfein.

PC vendors aren't going to choose one client hypervisor over the other, but will wait and see how the market pans out, she said.

Client virtualization is the more immediate opportunity, and VMware is investing a lot of energy in that space, which started to take off last year, according to Goldfein.

The adoption barriers will have to be lowered even further for the technology to go mainstream, including making the user experience better when running the desktop on the server over. To achieve that VMware is investing in its own display protocol, which will be developed with Teradici, and out during the second half of 2009.

"PC-over-IP is a protocol that they invented. Today it exists in hardware implementations, and we are collaboration with them on a software-only implementation. We think it's going to be as competitive as any soft protocol on the market," said Goldfein.

VMware chose to work with Teradici because of some of its core technologies, including the algorithms it uses to do compression and adaptive rendering, which detects how much bandwidth the user has and adopts on the fly, according to Goldfein.

But still, the performance will get much better when backed it up with hardware acceleration.

"We think that if that model becomes more cost effective it's really going to transform what we today think of as state-of-the-art of remote display protocols," said Goldfein.

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