For the first time in years, I’m legitimately excited about Virtual Bridges

Yesterday I had a call with the new management team at Virtual Bridges, and I came away impressed by both the people and the way they spoke of their flagship VDI platform, VERDE. You might remember Virtual Bridges from our Geek Week back in 2009

Yesterday I had a call with the new management team at Virtual Bridges, and I came away impressed by both the people and the way they spoke of their flagship VDI platform, VERDE. You might remember Virtual Bridges from our Geek Week back in 2009 (yeah, it was THAT long ago!). At the time, the company was helmed by Jim Curtain, an ex-IBMer with strong ties to Big Blue, and Leo Reiter, the CTO and co-founder that actually set up VERDE from bare metal to deploying desktops in 33 minutes! We learned about VERDE and their client hypervisor, dubbed LEAF. I even took on the challenge in my own lab of installing it, and I found that even though it was a Linux-based solution (leveraging KVM and the SPICE protocol), I was able to spin up an environment pretty quickly. That was before they added GUI management, even.

Features were added as time went by, and while they were always headed in the right direction, many of the announcements that came our way were around the close ties to IBM. At one point (and possibly even still) IBM was actually OEMing VERDE for their IBM Virtual Desktop for Smart Business solution. There are two types of companies in the world, those that love IBM and those that stay the hell away from them, and I’ve been part of both over the years. I know that if someone deems a technology as part of the IBM family, it’s likely to bolster it’s acceptance within one group while causing the other to all but dismiss it. That, I believe, started happening to Virtual Bridges. As the ties to IBM grew stronger, the VDI technology and marketing began to take a back seat, and acceptance outside of IBM circles began to wane. In fact, the last in-depth article I wrote was based on VERDE 5 (they're on version 7 now).

So, when I got on the call with Virtual Bridges’ CSO Jon Senger and VP of Alliances Brad Sanford, the first thing I asked them was about the IBM relationship. To my surprise (and delight), I learned that they have distanced themselves from IBM and are re-focusing on creating a VDI platform for the masses that is on par with the other solutions on the market today. 

Parting ways with IBM comes as no surprise when you look at all the changes within the company from the top down. In February of 2012, Sam Cece, who has no discernable IBM pedigree, took over as CEO. He replaced pretty much the entire executive team and brought in the people he thinks can take the company and products from bolt-on IBM solutions built on a technology somewhat unfamiliar to Windows admins—with drawbacks compared to Citrix, VMware, Microsoft, and vWorkspace, no less—into something fit for the enterprise. Both Jon and Brad are Dell alums, Jon having been their CTO of Emerging Technology and Brad having been in charge of the user experience of both internal and external software. Their experience can hopefully help bridge the gap that exists any time you try to introduce a Linux-heavy solution into a Windows admin world.

To do this, they’re focusing on a few things. First is VERDE 7, which was released under the new guard. They actually held up the release after taking over in order to add some features. Most notably, this includes role-based administration at the API level (literally everything in the management console can be assigned to users through a RESTful API), session-based QoS, and multi-tenancy. On the topic of multi-tenancy, Jon and Brad indicated that they are working on a parallel solution for hybrid clouds that leverages OpenStack and VERDE, although they weren’t ready to share any information beyond that. 

Second, they want to enhance their storage optimization technology more. VERDE’s image management is based on Copy-on-Write (what VMware calls Linked Clones), and they’ve added memory-based caching so that once a boot image is loaded once on a compute node, all further hits to that image are pulled from memory. Changes are sent to primary storage as deltas. While this isn’t earth-shattering stuff, they know that they have the opportunity to leverage and extend that functionality.

Third, and this is the big one, is that they’ve recognized that the SPICE protocol isn’t living up to today’s expectations. While it can perform well in a vacuum, they, like everyone else, have found it’s fallen behind the pack when dealing with multiple screens, HD video, WAN connections, and mobile devices. The lack of compression and the necessity of using MMR to maintain a decent session when using YouTube have taken their toll, and they’re considering other options for the aforementioned hybrid cloud solution. Of course, VERDE will broker RDP and NX as well, so you’re not required to use SPICE. SPICE was the easy decision back when VERDE was released since it has a symbiotic relationship with the KVM hypervisor, but it’s nice to see that it’s no longer sacred in the eyes of Virtual Bridges. 

Though the dust has settled after the shakeup, there is still a lot of work to be done. By early next year, we should have a much more clear picture of the direction Virtual Bridges is headed, and I’m eager to see what that is. 

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SPICE has been evolving.  The problem for Virtual Bridges is that they like to borrow (and I'm being nice there) others technology without (so far as I can tell) actually contributing to it.  As you will recall, SPICE is FOSS and anyone can contribute to its development.  Red Hat has been doing the bulk of work on SPICE, as they should, but if SPICE wasn't meeting Virtual Bridges' needs, they could have contributed to add the features they wanted. That is to say they could have taken an active role rather than a passive one.  I think SPICE is suffering from the fact that Red Hat is the primary contributor to it although I have seen quite a few other contributors like Codeweavers for example.  I still use SPICE for all of my KVM-based machines because it gives me access to the VM as it is booting.  I'm not sure if any of the other remoting protocols are integrated enough into VERDE to offer that.  Any idea?

Regarding NX, I was just curious if it was NX 3 or NX 4.  NX 4 would probably be better because it can be used (as I understand it) on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X systems whereas NX 3 is Linux only.  In the past when they used NX 3, the end user had to download the package themselves from No Machine and install the freely available single-user version inside of each VM.  It would be nice if they are using NX 4 and actually expected it as an integral part of the VERDE product, if Virtual Bridges would give No Machine some of the action... by at least licensing it so it can be included with VERDE rather than something the customer has to download themselves... but again, I haven't keeped up on the VERDE product-line so maybe they are doing that already.  Any idea?

While a nice dual-head for remote virtual machines is a nice feature, I have to wonder how widely used such a feature is.  What percentage of users use dual-head remote connections?  Have you guys?

TYL, Scott Dowdle


Thanks again for speaking with us Gabe,

SPICE is still an active option for our customers, and we introduced multi-monitor support for Linux guests with our VERDE 7.0 release.  We continue to support NX 3 and RDP as secondary and tertiary options, although NX is not bundled with our client.