If you're not familiar with RingCube, they have a software product called "vDesk" (video demo) that they've marketed as a client-based desktop virtualization solution. vDesk allows a user to boot a second instance of Windows from the base instance, kind of like a Type 2 VM -- except vDesk is not a hypervisor and the vDesk workspace is not a real VM. Instead they just leverage the existing Windows files (both on disk and in memory) to sort of "spawn" a second desktop instance. So while vDesk looks and feels like a separate VM (it can even be in a different domain than the host), you boot your additional instance of Windows with a 30mb "image" and just a few hundred megabytes of memory.
RingCube has historically played up their advantages around offline support and very small images. A lot of their case studies were around BYOC where you could boot an enterprise instance of Windows from any laptop or desktop that already had Windows installed. (And they let you control the minimum requirements, since whatever service packs and hotfixes were installed on the host were then used by the VM.) Since all it took was a few tens-of-megabytes to boot a corporate instance of Windows, RingCube could offer the portability of VDI without the huge backend server requirements or limitations of datacenter-hosted desktops.
While I thought RingCube had some cool technology ever since I first learned about them at VMworld 2008, I always kind of wondered how successful they'd be. My concern was that they had some brilliant technology but that they were about five years too late. Nowadays most desktops and laptops are plenty powerful enough to run multiple VMs, and even if your traditional Type 2 VM is huge, once you do your initial copy then there's not too much data to worry about. So I wanted to give RingCube an award for being awesome while sharing my condolences for their product not catching on. (Although according to them they have over 1.3m seats sold, which puts them right up there with the major players in the space.)
In recent years I've wondered whether RIngCube could reshape their product to be sort of the ultimate application virtualization product, since their entire virtual desktop would have pretty close to 100% application compatibility? (Although that concept never caught on as vDesk has been limited to one VM per base Windows instance.)
RingCube vDesk "VDI Edition"
Earlier this week, RingCube announced the "VDI Edition" of vDesk, a product which actually seems pretty brilliant. vDesk VDI Edition is an add-on to Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View. The idea is that you use your existing VDI product to manage and provision your VMs, using a "shared" or "pooled" approach where all your users (or groups of users) share a single base VM. And then instead of using roaming profiles or folder redirection, you run the vDesk agent to "spawn" that corporate VM which is 100% personalized on top of the shared master VDI image.
So at first thought, you think "Ok, so now RingCube is entering the user virtualization / workspace virtualization to compete against AppSense, RES Software, Scense, & triCerat." This is true. But what's more interesting is that since RingCube gives each user his or her own VM, they're also entering the "user-installed apps" space too.
In fact you could think of vDesk VDI Edition as a hyper-compatible user-installed app solution, complete with layering (since admins can still patch the base without breaking the virtual workspaces). And since vDesk supports the mixing of apps from the base and the virtual workspace, admins can still deploy apps (physical or virtual) to the base while leveraging the virtual workspace just for user-installed apps.
This is a smart way to go. I like that they're enhancing Citrix & VMware instead of trying to compete against them. I like that you can still use your existing XenDesktop or View disk provisioning systems, management, and remoting protocols. And I like that vDesk VDI Edition only costs $95!
On top of that, you still have the option of syncing your virtual workspace and taking it offline, whether you do that with the standalone vDesk product or you just use vDesk to personalize your XenClient or View Local Mode desktop.
The bottom line
This is a great use for RingCube's technology, and it's smart for them to integrate with the major players. I'm looking forward to talking to real customers who are using this. What do you think? Good idea? Horrible idea? meh?