IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Lesser-Known VDI Solutions

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) can ease the cost of managing desktop systems. But there are more VDI vendors beyond the big players in the market, and they could benefit your business. By Alan Radding By ChannelPro

By Alan Radding

For many managers, the cost of maintaining desktop systems is getting out of hand. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is one solution.

Rachel Chalmers, research director, 451 Group, lays out the case for VDI at the start of her comprehensive VDI report, Desktop as a Service: “The cost of maintaining these [desktop] workspaces goes up and up, as IT department budgets remain flat or decline. It’s no wonder that Windows desktop administrators are looking at their colleagues in server virtu­alization, and applying the same techniques to simplifying management of desktops.”

Once admins come around to that way of thinking, many turn to VMware or Citrix, the leading VDI players. When a company starts looking into what it actually needs from a VDI product, however, the choice may not be that simple. “We’re tracking over 50 desktop virtualization companies,” says Chalmers. Besides the two VDI leaders, Chalmers follows big players like Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat, and Symantec as well as small players such as Desktone, Kaviza, MokaFive, RingCube, and many more. The competitive landscape, seemingly, changes weekly.

There are several good reasons why a VAR or system integrator might recommend one of the other players in the market:

  • Good pre-existing relationship with an alternative vendor
  • Need for some specific configuration or deployment options the leaders don’t provide
  • Better interoperability or integration with legacy systems
  • Lower cost, better terms, faster delivery
  • Better service and support

“There are a lot of variables in this kind of decision,” notes Michael Fox, author of Demystifying the Virtual Desktop and a senior solutions architect for virtualization at EMC Consulting, the advisory arm of EMC Corp., headquartered in Hopkinton, Mass. Some of the VDI products are dead simple to deploy. Others won’t easily meet the needs of a complex organization requiring a mix of deployment options.

VMware, the market leader, offers a handful of options: ACE (Assured Client Environment), an OS-hosted client virtualization tool; View, for server-hosted desktop virtualization; ThinApp, an application encapsulation and isolation utility with a zero-client-code footprint; and Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP), a hypervisor for smartphones and other handheld devices.

By contrast, start-up MokaFive, in Redwood City, Calif., combines client virtualization with central management and control. “What customers want is a virtual workspace that can be assembled at a policy-compliant central point but run on a local device, complete with a gee-whiz graphics card,” says Chalmers. Only a handful of vendors offer that today.

To do that MokaFive splits the workspace into layers. IT manages only the base oper­ating system and standard applications. Users get to control their personal applications and data. Its layered architecture gives MokaFive distinct advantages over server-hosted desktop virtualization. Workspaces can be used offline and can run on many kinds of virtual­ization, Chalmers adds.

“Layers exist in all the solutions. The trick is to know how the layers work together,” observes Fox. That becomes the job of the VARs and system integrators.

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