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IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution

Written on Dec 05 2008
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11,045 views, 12 comments

by Brian Madden

Kevin Goodman (founder of RTO Software, previous BriForum presenter, and co-creator of the Logon Process Wall Chart with me) gave me a heads-up about IBM partnering with VDI-vendor Virtual Bridges and Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu Linux, to deliver an Ubuntu-based VDI solution. This is interesting because it avoids the various Microsoft licenses (Windows Vista Enterprise, VECD, and Office, just for starters), which they estimate can be $500-$800 per desktop.

It seems that these three companies will be fighting an uphill battle on two fronts. First, they need to find people who actually want their users to run Linux desktops. Second, they need to have an offering that is as rich (in the VDI sense) as XenDesktop or View 3. (I mean really, for as much as we complain about today's VDI products, they're still pretty advanced. For example, will the IBM/Virtual Bridges/Ubuntu solution have a good display protocol, single-instance storage, VM migration, etc.?)

Linux as a desktop Windows replacement?

There are mountains and mountains of conversations about this on the Internet already, so we don't have to get too far into those details. Personally, I don't have too much experience with Linux. I install it about once every two years or so just to see what all the fuss is about. And usually after a few days, I'm like "eh? whatever" and I switch back to my previous OS. Canonical was at VMwold this past September, and I picked up an Ubuntu desktop install DVD. (Which, by the way, was super easy to install into VMware Fusion on the Mac. Yyou just drop the Ubuntu disk in, click the button in Fusion to create a new VM, and it auto-recognizes the Ubuntu disk and does the whole "easy install" for you. It's about four clicks, and you have an Ubuntu Virtual Machine!) Ubuntu seemed cool, and I like that now they have nice themes and cleartype fonts and stuff, but after a few days, I missed the "real" version of Office and I missed the fact that I didn't really know how to do anything.

Of course those are just personal feelings, and certainly if I was forced to use Linux I could make do. But enterprises don't pick platforms based on personal feelings, they pick platforms based on (1) being able to run the required applications, and (2) the typical price/performance/support costs/features mix.

But #1 is that this platform has to run their applications. And I just don't see that being Linux for the time being. (Maybe in another five or ten years when we're all running Rich Internat Apps in the cloud, but for now, we live in a Windows world.)

We even explored the notion of trying to run Windows apps without Windows six months ago, perhaps with a combination of something like WINE and/or ThinApp. But that ultimately proved to not really be practical, and the only way to access seamless Windows applications on a non-Windows device is to connect to them via server-based computing (Citrix XenApp, Quest, Ericom, etc.). Of course that's still "Windows" and kind of defeats the whole purpose of the excercise.

IBM, Virtual Bridges, and Canonical as a VDI solution?

As I wrote previous, the other front on which these three companies must fight is the actual "VDI-ness" of their solution. I'm not even sure I ever heard of Virtual Bridges before today. It looks like their VERDE (Virtual Enterprise Remote Desktop Environment) product is what's being used for this VDI solution, but what kind of hypervisor does that use? Does it support multiple users sharing a master disk image? What remote display protocols does it support? Does it support audio, USB, multi-monitor, and multimedia? (Their website is light on detail.)

All-in-all I think this is an interesting concept, and I always like competition. Maybe this offering will become more interesting in an RIA (rich internet app) world, but for now, this is a niche within the niche. (Of course that's always what Linux has been on the desktop, right?)


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Ewen Bruce wrote re: IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution
on Fri, Dec 5 2008 1:43 PM Link To This Comment

I must admit I saw this announcement yesterday and almost immediately decided to completely ignore it. I assumed at first that it was some sort of knee jerk reaction to the announcement of VMware view, but on reflection that doesn't seem likely. Fundamentally, I don't understand who this is for. Who uses Linux desktops, and beyond that, who wants them delivered virtually? You're absolutely right when you say that it has to be about application delivery, and almost every important business app known to man is a Win32 app. I attended an IBM session a few months ago where they tried to push Linux desktops and open source Office software, but the response I got when I asked how I was going to be able to run all my Win32 apps was "there are a range of solutions". Digging deeper, this seemed to mean that I could have the apps recoded, buy alternative apps, or run them in another virtualization (SBC) solution. Either way, the suggestion was that each app would need to be looked at individually. I left session still wondering why I would bother. IBM seems to be a one trick pony in this arena; the only message is "save some money on Windows licenses", beyond that, they don't seem to have a sales pitch. I'd be really interested to know what value other people see in Linux as a desktop operating system; I just don't get it.

jkenzig wrote re: IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution
on Fri, Dec 5 2008 2:41 PM Link To This Comment

I could see this being heavily used in a Library or Kiosk situation where only a browser like Firefox is needed.

Brian Madden wrote re: IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution
on Fri, Dec 5 2008 3:40 PM Link To This Comment

Regarding the kiosk thing... I agreet that ~ubuntu~ could work there.. but why would you bother remoting the desktop with VDI? Why not just throw cheap PCs in there and do a network boot or something?

Tony wrote re: IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution
on Fri, Dec 5 2008 3:43 PM Link To This Comment

I think the new Ubuntu 8.10 desktop is awesome.  Its a real desktop where everything actually works.  With a Citrix Linux clients (no streaming...yet) you get your MS app via terminal services, some of them even work thru WINE.  I was also an "Install Linux every 2 years just to see what the fuss is" person, however I have 8.10 running dual boot on my laptop with XP and as a VM in Fusion.  I rarely boot to XP unless I need some sort of IE only function, I can run all my company apps thru CSG.

rahvintzu wrote re: IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution
on Fri, Dec 5 2008 5:40 PM Link To This Comment

Universities with computer science dept have labs of linux boxs. But a fair few are simplifying via

A) Running a linux server and have students connect to that.

B) Simply using OSX labs to code against, as you allready have to support them for the graphic design depts.

Linux labs are normally ghost towns, and the hardware is underutilised.

Kata Tank wrote re: IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution
on Mon, Dec 8 2008 5:26 AM Link To This Comment

How much is the Ubuntu market share ?

How much of them will switch to a VDI solution (full switch or partial switch) ?

How much of non Ubuntu users will switch both the platform and the technology at the same time ?


Christopher Grenness wrote re: IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution
on Mon, Dec 8 2008 5:55 PM Link To This Comment

> How much is the Ubuntu market share ?

Hard to say, as you don't have to purchase anything to become an Ubuntu user - you can download from, via torrents, or borrow a CD from a friend.

But there are lots of users, both using Ubuntu and variations of Ubuntu.

> (...) and almost every important business app known to man is a Win32 app

Seen from the end user point of view, I have to disagree. Apart from MS Office (and I respect your opinion, Brian, but I've been exclusively using OpenOffice since September 2004 and there are maybe 3 things I miss from MS Office - no, make that 2 as with OOo3 I can crop pictures 'live'), business applications like CRM, ERP and more are now more seen running as web applications, with all the advantages it gives. Thus, which OS the end user is sitting on (or platform - be it a laptop, desktop, smartphone, etc.) becomes more unimportant and actually gives corporations a valid choice of upgrading (downgrading?) to MS Vista or consider an OS change to Linux (which would probably go pretty unnoticed for the majority of the end users (not the kind of end users spending time on, though...).

Or, they may consider do the really right thing, and convert their exisiting PCs to thin (Linux) clients using the free thin client converter and management tool Multiframe (sorry, I had to plug this!).

Ewen Bruce wrote re: IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution
on Tue, Dec 9 2008 5:05 AM Link To This Comment

I would say that, if Ubuntu had a significant market share, we would know about it. There may well be lots of users, but in comparison to the overall distribution of client OSs. the proportion is tiny and relatively insignificant. Much as I would REALLY like to not care about the client OS, I don't buy the 'you just need a browser these days argument' because until EVERYTHING can actually run in a browser its just not a viable stance. If it was, why would we need VDI?

Brian; one suggestion; is it possible to highlight vendors postings or comments on the site. I'm relatively new o but I seem to come across a lot of posts/comments that are just veiled sales pitches from vendors - there are some valuable contributions too, but it would be helpful to know if the contributor may have an agenda.

daflame wrote re: IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution
on Thu, Sep 24 2009 1:36 PM Link To This Comment

I may be mistaken, but after reviewing all the information regarding VERDE it seems to me that the desktop that you publish to users is independent of the VERDE system.  So if you want to publish a Windows desktop go right ahead, but you have to pay licensing for each desktop you publish.  If you publish Ubuntu Linux desktops there is no cost so take your pick.  The most attractive technology this brings is SMART which allows you to publish a desktop in a virtual machine on the client side regardless of the client OS, but synchronize that VM (to the client only) when connected giving laptop users access to their desktop without an internet connection.  I hope I'm not reading into it, but that is what I am seeing.  Many new laptops have a CPU which supports VM acceleration on the chip and it seems IBM is leveraging this new technology.  If it chooses to use Ubuntu as a server they can go right ahead.  If they want to use them as a desktop that's fine too.  So with the VERDE technology you initially save on the server licensing, but you may choose whether or not to do the same with published desktop.

jempark wrote re: IBM launches Ubuntu-based VDI solution
on Mon, Dec 29 2014 12:18 PM Link To This Comment

It's main support ( ) is pretty helpful. Even deeper problems can be taught quickly.

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