As usual, I came away from VMworld thinking that VMware really has their act together. I was high on AppBlast, Horizon, Persona, and PCoIP offload cards, and for good reason--it's all cool technology that grows their desktop virtualization offering today and establishes a road map for the future. AppBlast in particular had me geeked out, since to me it meant that VMware is finally paying a bit of attention to the group of people they've been alienating by almost completely ignoring RDSH as a solution for deploying Windows apps.
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In case you missed it, AppBlast (very scripted VMware TV video from VMworld) is a technology that allows you to send desktops and applications to any HTML5 browser. The demo at VMworld showed Excel being sent to and iPad and running in the local Safari on the device. Essentially, it was a seamless app running via HTML5, coming from somewhere…else.
We learned from Warren Ponder at VMworld (listen here - about 23 minutes in) that AppBlast works outside the OS, even going so far as working with Windows, Linux, Mac (and possibly RDSH), so it's quite a bit different than what we've been seeing in other HTML5 thin clients that actually re-encode the remote protocol data into a text stream useable by WebSockets. This implies a low-level implementation, which seems relatively possible when you consider that VMware can watch what is going on in the guest GPU. The thing is, Warren also mentioned that it doesn't require virtualization (gasp, and I mean that!). Just when we think we have it figured out, it turns out we don't have a clue.
Ultimately, we're left with more questions than answers, like why is VMware focusing on deploying local applications/desktops (i.e. NOT things from the cloud) from devices that may or may not be virtualized? It seems very un-VMware-like.
One reason I firmly believe, although I haven't heard this from anyone at VMware, is that this gives them an answer for the people that worry that there's no session-host-like solution coming out of Palo Alto. I think a solution like AppBlast can answer that call, depending on how it works (and especially if it works on RDSH).
Another reason I see is that this is one of many tools that VMware is going to use to help people build a bridge to that Window-less world that they see on the...well...horizon. If they can remove the Windows desktop from the equation and just give access to the app, all while integrating it with their federation/management/provisioning platform (Horizon), that's a win for them. It means people are going to shift their focus from deploying Windows with Applications on it to deploying Applications. From there, the economics of deploying apps from the cloud should take over.
How it works is also of high importance, because if it's just running single instances of Windows and deploying the apps via HTML5, there's already a bunch of ways to do that. Tying it into Horizon is cool, but I'd expect the flexibility of Horizon to accomodate the other methods, too. Solving the mystery of the backend will expose any licensing or infrastructure complications, not to mention allow people to think about if/how/where they'd use this technology. Plus, if it's really as ubiquitous as Warren said, what's the installation process to get it working on Windows, Linux, and Mac? Are there special hardware requirements?
In the video linked to above, Scott Davis (VMware's desktop CTO) mentioned that there is not currently a productized version of AppBlast, instead referring to it as a core technology (of what I'm not sure). My point here is that lots of things have been mentioned at VMworld only to not appear until months later (if at all...CVP :). So, get excited about AppBlast, but don't hold your breath. Maybe we'll learn soon enough how it works, which will allow us to begin to think about how to implement it. In the meantime, anyone care to speculate?