VMware WSX: The consumerization of desktop virtualization. It isn't AppBlast, but it is kind of cool - Gabe Knuth - BrianMadden.com
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VMware WSX: The consumerization of desktop virtualization. It isn't AppBlast, but it is kind of cool

Written on Mar 23 2012
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12,502 views, 9 comments


by Gabe Knuth

This week, there's been some buzz outside the enterprise desktop virtualization space about VMware WSX, which is a technology that delivers Windows desktops via HTML5 technologies. What's interesting is that this bit of tech seems to be aimed squarely at consumers, appearing in Engadget by way of Wired, and in Wired by way of ArsTechnica (basically, Ars broke the news).

When I first saw it, I thought "Oh, ok. This is AppBlast," but it turns out it's not the applications-via-HTML5 technology that we say at VMworld last fall. The HTML5 aspect is the same, but the similarities end there. A blog post by WSX developer Christian Hammond confirms this while dipping into how WSX works and why they've developed it. What follows is a quick overview:

WSX is built around VMware Workstation, and has nothing to do with VMware View or server-class virtualization technology. It's actually included in the most recent tech preview of VMware Workstation for Linux. It installs as a web service on the workstation.

The focus appears to be on making WSX a web-based management interface that can also deliver the console (which hasn't been possible on many non-Windows devices). Users can use WSX to manage VMs running on the machine where it is installed and, including (but with reduced functionality) shared VMs that became available in Workstation 8.

The "gee-whiz" feature that's being shown on the intertubes is Windows running in full screen on an iPad, including a screen shot of a YouTube video showing the trailer from The Avengers (which was partially filmed in my hometown, Cleveland!). There is no additional magic happening with this implementation of an HTML5 client, though. Audio still doesn't work, and you still need an endpoint with some decent horsepower to have a great experience, since the browser is rendering everything. For general, office-like desktop work, though, performance should be fine. This is experimental, so there are keyboard issues and only marginal support for Android. 

What's interesting to me about this is that anyone can use this with their own VMs, and by the time this is fully-baked, everyone will have access to it if they use VMware Workstation. I'm curious as to the legalities of this in terms of Microsoft licensing, since this is new ground. Any user could run Windows in a VM and access it remotely. Do you need VDA for that? Home users wouldn't have SA, but maybe the fact that the connection is being laundered through a web service and accessing the console of the VM is enough to avoid issues?

Either way - good for VMware (and Christian Hammond) for putting this together. I don't see much of an enterprise play right now (unlike AppBlast, which could fit well in the enterprise), but as a nerd, I like it. There could be a need for an enterprise HTML5 management solution someday, I guess.

 

 
 




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Comments

Gunnar Berger wrote re: VMware WSX: The consumerization of desktop virtualization. It isn't AppBlast, but it is kind of cool
on Fri, Mar 23 2012 11:11 AM Link To This Comment

Hey Gabe,

I've wondered about the licensing practicality of AppBlast and now WSX as well.  I do think there is something about it being web based that helps, but more so I'm just wondering how this is different (from a licensing stand point) than WebEx or GoToMeeting.  If all you are doing is allowing yourself the ability to remotely control your VM, I don't see where a license is needed.  But I'm no licensing expert.

What are your thoughts?

Gunnar

Dan Shappir wrote re: VMware WSX: The consumerization of desktop virtualization. It isn't AppBlast, but it is kind of cool
on Fri, Mar 23 2012 3:14 PM Link To This Comment

I think WSX is a smart move on VMware's part. It's more efficient, and sexier, to create a browser-based client that works everywhere instead of creating lot's of device-specific clients for Workstation.

That being said, and despite the coverage in Wired and Engadget, I can't see WSX's consumer appeal. Will consumers install Linux on their computers, then VMware Workstation and then Windows inside a VM just to get browser-based access? And even if they are willing to do that, will consumers be able to configure static IPs for the VMs, and properly configure firewalls etc.?

Dan Shappir wrote re: VMware WSX: The consumerization of desktop virtualization. It isn't AppBlast, but it is kind of cool
on Fri, Mar 23 2012 3:23 PM Link To This Comment

Correction: static IP for the computer on which WSX is installed, not for the VMs.

Martin Sheppard wrote re: VMware WSX: The consumerization of desktop virtualization. It isn't AppBlast, but it is kind of cool
on Sun, Mar 25 2012 7:20 AM Link To This Comment

It appears that for Windows 7 Home Premium there is no allowance for remote access. For Professional/Enterprise/Ultimate (which would be the versions most commonly used with VMWare Workstation), I've included the conditions below. Basically, if you are the primary user of the physical device then you can remotely access it from anywhere, so yes there are plenty of situations where this is legal, but there are plenty of others where it isn't allowed.

However, if they are home users then they won't know or care whether it is allowed and neither will Microsoft know or care if they break the rules, so it doesn't really matter what the rules are.

Here are the rules for Windows 7 Pro/Ent/Ultimate: "The single primary user of the licensed computer may access a session from any other device using Remote Desktop or similar technologies. A “session” means the experience of interacting with the software, directly or indirectly, through any combination of input, output and display peripherals. Other users may access a session from any device using these technologies, if the remote device is separately licensed to run the software."

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