If there was ever any evidence of overlap between the mobility world and the desktop virtualization world, you can find it in Jack’s VMworld 2016 preview post. There, Jack touched on the number one thing I’m looking forward to seeing in action: the progress VMware has made with A². There are other things I’m watching out for as well, but I want to start there.
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When VMware announced Project A2 last year, the industry perked up its collective ears. There had been plenty of conversation up to that point about managing Windows 10 (and OS X) with MDM tools instead of classic enterprise tools. VMware took it to the next level by also factoring in applications. With A2, they were going to unify application management between both cloud- and domain-based approaches while also simplifying management.
In a session at VMworld 2015, Harry Labana outlined three steps that they needed to take to get to that vision. I wrote about it at the time, so I’ll paraphrase it here. Step 1 was to create a common application format that could be used to provision apps without packaging them. Step 2 was to create a unified, platform-independent application delivery platform. Finally, Step 3 was incorporate lifecycle management.
The ultimate goal, at least at the time, was to create a platform that let you treat applications separately, grouping them together as necessary, then mixing and matching them to create different services that can be deployed to users, groups, device types, locations, etc... The backbone of this platform would be AirWatch and AppVolumes, along with a new Unified Application Manager (dubbed “Astro”) to assemble the applications into groups and services.
Sounds great, right? Looking back on it, it sounds a little too great. This one platform is going to do everything, revolutionizing the way we manage desktops and applications while paving the way to being the replacement for all the other ways we do those things today. It’s ambitious to say the least!
Since that time, we’ve heard next to nothing about A2. This isn’t new ground for VMware. We’ve grown accustomed over the years to hearing about something awesome at VMworld only to have it swept under the rug throughout the year and ignored at the following event. (To be fair, Citrix has done their fair share of this, too.) Nevertheless, I’m still hopeful that we’ll see something, even a progress report, about how A2 is coming along.
VMware has been pretty mum about Horizon since the Horizon 7 announcement back in February. There were a number of new features, like Just in Time Desktops (which was based on the Instant Clone stuff we saw at VMworld last year), and the Blast Extreme Experience protocol. Blast is an H.264-based protocol that is designed to deliver better video performance to end users while also reducing battery consumption on portable devices. Since this protocol was designed recently (its roots go back to 2013), it was created with modern usage scenarios and networks in mind. Because of that, it’s very tolerant of packet loss and latency associated with mobile networks.
I’m excited to get a look at Blast, as well as to see any improvements they may have made since February. It’s possible that we’ll see an update as well, which could further chip away at the dwindling feature gap between Citrix and VMware. Who knows, perhaps we’ll see VMware fire back at Citrix for the side-by-side demo that Citrix showed in a Synergy keynote this past May. The demo, which showed some valid differences, also showed some trivial ones (like Cortana integration), which elicited this Tweet of the Decade by VMware’s Shawn Bass:
Along those lines, this is the first VMworld since the release of Project Enzo, now called Horizon Air with Hybrid Mode (which we just call Hybrid Mode). VMware has been quick to say that it’s not a direct competitor to Citrix Workspace Cloud, despite the fact that it’s a cloud management plane for managing desktops and applications. This is likely because where CWC is used to manage both cloud-based and on-premises installations of XenDesktop, Hybrid Mode is only used to manage desktops running Horizon Air, not Horizon View.
The next logical step might be to add in some on-premises Horizon View capabilities to Hybrid Mode, but since the real name is Horizon Air with Hybrid Mode, I don’t know how feasible that is.
A (probably wrong) prediction
I suspect that we may see some movement along those lines at VMworld this year. Currently, customers have to choose how they’re going to use VMware to deliver and manage desktops. Each scenario isn’t compatible with the other, and so there is a fragmented customer base. This could be by design, but it seems more likely that it’s the result of building Horizon View in-house while also acquiring Desktone and trying to capitalize on that right away.
VMware could keep going with business as usual, but there’s a small part of me that’s hoping to see some real integration on these fronts. Perhaps we’ll see a single product line evolve that utilizes elements of both platforms, or maybe we’ll see the addition of Horizon View management into Hybrid Mode at the very least.
VMworld has a knack for getting me really excited about IT in general. Frankly, the desktop virtualization and mobility vendors on the show floor are but a drop in the ocean compared to all the other vendors that are doing really interesting things. I don’t think I’ve ever left a VMworld without being surprised by something I saw, not just from VMware but from some other booth that I just happened to pass as I walk around. With that in mind, the thing I might be looking forward to most is having my eyes opened to something new.