VMware's VMworld 2013 desktop announcements: Plans sound good, but we're not holding our breath

Last week Gabe, Jack, and I attended VMworld 2013 here in San Francisco. Since we only focus on end-user computing (EUC) stuff like desktop and mobile, we viewed the entire show through that lens.

Last week Gabe, Jack, and I attended VMworld 2013 here in San Francisco. Since we only focus on end-user computing (EUC) stuff like desktop and mobile, we viewed the entire show through that lens. (Which is nice. It's like we were attending a smaller 2,000-person 30-vendor EUC subset show instead of having to deal with 22,500 people and 250 vendors.)

So here's a summary of everything VMware announced in the desktop space. (We also did a podcast live from the VMworld Expo Hall with VMware's EUC CTO Scott Davis if you'd like what's essentially an audio version of this article.) I'll probably do full articles on each of these things over the next week or so, but here's the quick summary if you weren't at VMworld. (By the way, if you're looking for details on what VMware is doing in the EMM / mobile space, check out Jack Madden's video from last week with Srinivas Krishnamurti, VMware's Sr. Director for Mobile Solutions.) 

VMware-hosted DaaS

The biggest "Holy Cow!" announcement at the show for me was that VMware is getting into the desktop hosting business. In other words, you will be able to buy a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) Windows desktop from VMware, paying them to use it. They host it, they run it, you use it.

Now when they initially talked about this offering, they talked about it in the context of it being something like "Horizon View as a Service." They talked about how you can have your Horizon View environment on-premises, and then this will be like the same thing from the cloud. Ultimately you'll be able to use the same tools to manage both on-premises (private cloud) and public cloud desktop environments, which is cool.

Unfortunately that's the "vision," not the "v1" product they'll offer soon. In fact the first version of VMware-hosted DaaS is nothing more than the same Desktone-powerd DaaS service that you can buy from any number of providers. Don't get me wrong: I'm still really excited that a huge company like VMware is entering this space. (Remember I believe that no one under maybe 1,000 desktops should be trying to build VDI on their own.) But this current announcement is more like a marketing partnership, not a product.

I asked Scott Davis about how VMware is handling licensing since Microsoft doesn't offer SPLA for Windows desktops. He gave the same answer that everyone does—your desktops are either RDSH Windows server desktops with RDS SPLA CALs which you connect to in a 1-to-1 way, or your "bring your own licenses" and have the cloud provider host them on dedicated hardware for your company. This is funny because both of these go against VMware's current world view. They have marketing material that rips on RDSH as not being a "real" desktop OS, and of course they want to make everything virtual, so hosting dedicated hardware per customer is crazy. In their defense I'm on their side and I believe Microsoft is still screwing everyone by not offering SPLA for Windows desktops.

It will be interesting to see whether Citrix and Microsoft respond with similar offerings. I hope yes, because I love a future where we have solid Windows desktop options from the public cloud!

VMware vSAN

You probably heard the announcement that VMware is introducing a new feature (product?) to vSphere called "vSAN," which aggregates local storage (SSD and magnetic) from multiple vSphere servers and creates a huge virtual grid of storage you can use for any VM on any server. (Or something like that?) Since I don't follow the storage space as closely as the desktop space, I don't know too much about vSAN, but I can reiterate what I've been saying for years: Storage is critical for VDI, and only in the past few years have we gotten to the point where storage is fast and cheap enough to make VDI a reality at a decent price point. VMware's vSAN will be built-in to vSphere (well, into some editions of it), and it should be great for VDI. So I'm excited about that!

Horizon Workspace integration with Citrix XenApp

In their "EUC Super Session," VMware's Scott Davis and Mike Coleman demonstrated a future feature of using VMware Horizon Workspace to manage and deliver datacenter-hosted single Windows applications from Citrix XenApp servers. (Though in one of many awkward moments in that session, they refused to mention Citrix by name. Seriously guys?)

If this feature sounds familiar, it's because they originally talked about it three years ago when they first announced VMware Horizon and they demoed it a year ago at VMworld 2012. I don't have much to say here that I haven't said over the past three years—I love the idea and I'm excited for it.

So, um, thanks for demoing that for the third year in a row. Can we have it now please?

Support for Horizon Mirage in VDI

One of the funniest kerfuffles of the past year was when I wrote that it was crap that VMware announced a bunch of Horizon stuff but that you couldn't use Horizon Mirage inside View VDI VMs. (I didn't like that that meant you had to have two different management strategies for physical and virtual desktops.) VMware took offense to that and clarified that "Hey, we're not saying it doesn't work, we're just saying it's not supported!" <shakes head and sighs>

VMware demonstrated Horizon Mirage in running in View and told everyone that it View would support Horizon very soon. Scott Davis actually explained the challenge like this: (I'm paraphrasing) "The original Wanova Mirage product was designed to work with laptops, so it assumed you had lots of IOPS and lots of CPU and that network bandwidth was your scarce resource. In VDI, it's the exact opposite. You have tons of network but you don't have a lot IOPS and CPU. So we love Mirage's layering as a way to manage Windows desktops, but we have to do a lot of engineering to switch around how it works on the back end."

Fair enough, but I still wish we had that today. I mean it's been over a year since they bought Wanova. What's taking so long?

What's missing?

Like I've written before, I love VMware's vision and I believe their direction is spot on. I appreciated that they started talking about "VDI 2.0," which is cost-effective VDI not based on non-persistent desktops. (Gee, where have I heard that before?) The thing they're missing is execution and delivery. VMworld 2013 didn't close the loop on a lot of previous desktop things that we've been waiting a long time for, instead just introducing more cool stuff that we can't have yet.

We're all here holding our breaths now!

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