A roundup of the desktop / application vendors at VMworld 2008 (Part 2: N-R)

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the fact that VMworld 2008 had over 200 vendors and exhibitors is a bit overwhelming at first.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the fact that VMworld 2008 had over 200 vendors and exhibitors is a bit overwhelming at first. After going to the show, I realized that only about 30 or so of the 200+ vendors made products that were relevant in the desktop and application virtualization spaces. I tried to visit and learn about as many of those vendors as I could at the conference. Last week I published Part 1 of the vendor round-up, and today's article is Part 2.

Continuing our round-up (in alphabetical order)...

Neocleus

Neocleus is a software company who makes "endpoint virtualization" product, which is essentially a Type 1 hypervisor running on the client / endpoint device itself. The primary use case for this is the "local / offline VDI, and it's one of the key enabling technologies that's needed for the 2010 VDI+ vision. Now that VMware showed off their "vClient" bare-metal hypervisor thingy at VMworld, Citrix will have to do something in this space. And guess what? The Neocleus solution is Xen-based! Citrix should buy this company ASAP. (Note: Another exhibitor called "Virtual Computer" has a very similar solution. You can read about them later in the article. Citrix could optionally buy them instead of Neocleus.)

Pano Logic

Pano Logic is a hardware and software company. They make a little tiny desktop device that looks like a thin client, although technically it's not a thin client--it's a "zero client." The device has no CPU, no memory, and no firmware. (Similar to the Teradici "puck" client.) Actually, the whole Pano thing sounds a lot like Teradici, except Pano's back end is all software, while Teradici requires custom hardware in the datacenter to power their pucks.

Pano Logic sell these zero clients as part of a complete virtual desktop solution. They have a management server (which is actually available as a virtual appliance) that renders the login screens and stuff for the users, and then once the user authenticates, they're routed to a Windows desktop instance in the datacenter. (Like many solutions, there's what essentially amounts to a Pano Logic driver pack loaded on the desktop VM that recognizes the remote zero client as local hardware.

Pano uses a proprietary protocol that remotes the display at the I/O level, not the GDI level (which again is why this is similar to Teradici). They claim their protocol is adaptive and works well enough over the WAN, although I haven't personally tested that yet.

Virtual Strategy magazine recorded this demo of Pano Logic on the show floor:

Perhaps the coolest thing about Pano is the design of the client device itself. It's made of metal and really shiny. The display connector is recessed, so it looks kind of like shiny block sitting on the desk. Wired wrote that the Pano box is both "sex and art," which is kind of cool props for something not made by Apple. (Of course that same Wired article also called it a "thin client," so I guess maybe that kills their street cred.)

Quest Software / Provision Networks Division

Quest Software bought Provision Networks almost a year ago, although I'm not 100% sure that anyone from Quest knows that. At VMworld, Quest had their own booth, and Vizioncore (another Quest company) had their own booth, and Provision Networks had their own booth.

The first thing you notice about the Provision booth is that they had two huge muscle men in very skimpy clothes passing out PowerBars to passers-by. (Something about putting your VDI environment on steroids.) While I'm not sure how I feel about booth babes at trade shows, I do know that they attendees of VMworld were about 95% men, so having man babes in the booth seemed even more ackward than women. (There was an upside for the men working the Provision booth itself, though, as the entire 5% of women at VMworld spent time in that booth.)

But Provision definitely had something worth viewing in their booth, naming, their new "Experience Optimization Pack" (EOP). This is a new plug-in for RDP that gives Provision-based solutions graphics-remoting performance that's similar to ICA. (Not better. Not worse. But similar.)

Patrick Rouse provided a nice overview of the EOP in his blog, along with a series of "before & after" videos. Very, very cool!

(Full Disclosure: Provision Networks has been a sponsor of BriForum in the past.)

Qumranet

Qumranet had a booth of their own, even though they're now owned by Red Hat. I've written about Qumranet quite a bit in the past, and there's nothing really new product-wise to report here. (Check out the demo video we did at BriForum this year if you're not familiar with Qumranet.) The big question on everyone's mind was that since Red Hat mainly bought Qumranet for the KVM hypervisor, what's going to happen to their Spice protocol? Will they open source it?

Several people asked that question of the employees in the Qumranet booth, and answers ranged from "yes" to "maybe" to "maybe if we can't figure out what to do with it" to "yes, but only after we make as much money as we can first."

So really, no new info on the open sourcing front. But let's keep those fingers crossed!

(Full Disclosure: Qumranent has been a sponsor of BriForum in the past. Also, Qumranet hired Gabe and me to conduct an analysis of the performance of their SolidICE product versus other VDI products, the results of which we hope to publish soon.)

RingCube

I'd never heard of RingCube before VMworld. They're a software company with a product called "vDesk." vDesk is a client-side virtualization engine that's another player in the local / offline VDI arena. But vDesk has one major difference from the Xen-based client hypervisors like Neocleus or Virtual Computer: RingCube uses the base Windows OS components within the guest VM. It's basiscally like Virtuozzo, except at the client level. (If you're not familiar with Virtuozzo, it's virtualization that's somewhere in-between the application level (like SoftGrid) and the hardware level (like VMware).)

In practical use, running vDesk is like running VMware workstation or Microsoft Virtual PC or any other VMM, except that the guest VM is sharing the kernel and key OS files with the host. The advantage of this is VM side. Instead of having a virtual machine that's several hundred megabytes in size, you can create one that's just a few megabytes.

This is a really cool idea, and it would work well in the employee-owned PC use-case. The vDesk product itself felt a little rough around the edges when using it. For example, the guest VM either ran in a window, or full screen. There was no concept of "seamless" integration like VMware's unity feature or Parallel's coherence.

vDesk is pretty still cool though. You can load the whole vDesk agent / VMM and a VM image onto a fairly small USB stick and get instant access to your desktop, running locally on whatever machine you want (as long at that machine is running windows).

RTO Software

Kevin Goodman's RTO Software was in the "New Innovators" area of the exhibit hall. (From what I can tell, all that's "innovative" about the exhibitors in this area is that they didn't spend as much money on sponsorship as the exhibitors who had full 10'x10' booths.)

I've really liked RTO's Virtual Profiles product, and I thought that's what they'd be leading with at VMworld. While they certainly were talking about that, Kevin told me that a lot of interest was in their PinPoint product, an application performance monitor that helps you figure out exactly what the end-user experience is like, and where potential performance problems are in your VDI or Terminal Server environment.

(Full Disclosure: RTO has sponsored BriForum in the past, and is a current advertiser on BrianMadden.com.)

~~

Did I say this was going to be a two-part article? Scratch that. It's now a three-part article, because there are still a lot of companies to get through. (Something about a super heavy turnout in the "V" section of the alphabet.) So check back tomorrow for Part 3: S-Z.

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I think you may be underselling the role of 'endpoint virtualisation'. We currently have a single XP build image that we use across all out 10,000+ desktops, but every time a new model of desktop arrives we have to update the core build with new drivers, re-test it, etc etc.  If we had a thin hypervisor we could deploy to all desktop hardware we could deploy the same build everywhere instantly. This in itself may not be a huge step, but it would allow us to change out PC procurement model (buy anything, anytime) rather than having it dictated by the work involved in updating the build. Ultimately, we don't want to be deploying fat XP to endpoints, but this might be a useful step along the way to the pure virtualisation solution.
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Hello Ewen


I invite you look at Thin Desktop as a possible solution. Michael Keen mentioned it in his blog and produced a video http://www.vmworldunderground.com/forum/topic/show?id=2147195%3ATopic%3A2041 and  eWEEK named it one of the top 10 products as VMworld. It may solve your problem - It has for many other VDI users.


 www.thinlaunch.com

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Has anyone used these in production? I have been thinking about doing a pilot and some real world feedback would be great.  Shane
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I agree 100%. I think endpoint virtualization is huge, and one of the core capabilities that needs to be in place for my 2010 VDI+ vision. The only reason I didn't talk too much about it here is because I've written about it so much in the past. But I agree... it's huge huge huge...
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Only works with ESX, no Xen or Hyper-V support....yet.
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Thanks O Cowardly Lion Guest, however I am fully aware of the infrastructure requirements and specifications of the product, I am looking more for feedback from someone who has actually implemented the product in a production environment and what the user experience was.
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[Disclaimer: I am Neocleus' CTO]

From a technology point of view, you can't really compare Neocleus to any other player.

Neocleus envisioned and delivers a transparent, type 1, hypervisor. It means that all devices are in fact managed by Windows (with all the benefits of driver compatibility) -- yet Windows is a VM (with all the benefits of being a VM).

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[Disclaimer: I am Neocleus' CTO]

Ewen,

Neocleus might have a solution for you, addressing both your "build" and "procurement" requirements.

Neocleus will allow you to use the original OEM "build" that comes with any laptop (enjoying the OEM driver and tools) while deploying your corporate "build" in tandem, seamlessly.

www.neocleus.com

 

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We are in a banking sector and use Panologic devices, we have around 50 of them deployed.
the devices are great - they call them "zero" management clients, no configuration necessary, just plug and go. Desktop performance is about the same as on wyse thin clients but we hear the next version adds their own display protocol and moves away from RDP.
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Easy to setup. We are running a 20 device pilot as next year our CIO wants to go VDI. So far it performs well. Our receptionist loves the shiny cube ;-0
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Panologic does not use RDP.
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What display protocol does Pano use?  Can these devices be used with different connection brokers?
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Instead of RDP, Pano Logic uses Console Direct, their own Display protocol driver. Performs much better than RDP/ICA (on a LAN)
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Instead of RDP, Pano Logic uses Console Direct, their own Display protocol driver. Performs much better than RDP/ICA (on a LAN)
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