VMware tackles enterprise personal cloud

Users love services like iCloud, but IT doesn't. VMware is cooking up an elaborate 'personal cloud' solution that IT can deploy and control

The public cloud and now even the private cloud have been pretty well defined. The personal cloud is somewhat fuzzier.

Typically, when people refer to the personal cloud, they mean commercial services like Apple iCloud or Microsoft SkyDrive, which provide a secure space for one user with multiple devices to store and sync files and personal apps. That's great for individuals, but these services are starting to drive IT nuts because sensitive company files may be uploaded willy-nilly -- and potentially be subject to hacking, random viewing by a family member, or otherwise exposed.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Gartner says the personal cloud will rule in two years. | For more insight on how personal technology is changing the enterprise, download InfoWorld's "Consumerization Digital Spotlight." | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Consumerization of IT newsletter today, then join our #CoIT discussion group at LinkedIn. ]

So what if IT could deploy its own enterprise personal cloud service for employees? VMware is working on just such a solution, which offers users all the functionality of commercial personal cloud services and more, but with enterprise control.

Because it's from VMware, you might conclude it has to do with virtualization, but you'd be only partly right. Yes, VMware View (desktop virtualization) and ThinApp (application virtualization) are essential to what VMware calls its "EUC (end-user computing) vision." But it's the new VMware technology now under development that looks like it will truly embrace and extend the personal cloud paradigm.

In a recent demo at InfoWorld's offices in San Francisco, I was blown away by a VMware prebeta project called AppBlast, which provides remote access not via a dedicated client such as View, but over plain old HTTP. That's right, when the actual product ships, you'll be able to pop open your desktop or mobile browser and remotely use any application on any AppBlast-enabled device in your personal arsenal over an Ethernet or a 3G/4G connection. And it's fast: The AppBlast demo included a video playing on a device in Seattle, and although frames were clearly dropping, the quality was surprisingly acceptable.

AppBlast goes beyond the features commercial services offer, but Octopus, another exciting VMware project, aims to mimic them. VMware describes Octopus succinctly as "Dropbox for the enterprise." You get all the secure data sharing and syncing features of that popular service, except it runs on your servers instead of servers in the public cloud.

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