Symantec suddenly stops selling Workspace Profiles. Does this mean VMware is acquiring RTO?

Last March, we learned that Symantec's Workspace Profiles product was an OEM / rebranded edition of RTO Software's Virtual Profiles. Then in September, we learned that VMware also signed an agreement with RTO Software for their Virtual Profiles product.

Last March, we learned that Symantec’s Workspace Profiles product was an OEM / rebranded edition of RTO Software’s Virtual Profiles. Then in September, we learned that VMware also signed an agreement with RTO Software for their Virtual Profiles product.

Although VMware has yet to sell any products with RTO’s technology, Symantec has been selling “Workspace Profiles” (which is basically RTO Virtual Profiles painted yellow) for over six months now.

But apparently that’s just changed. Yesterday I got an email from a reader who said that his Symantec Channel Rep told him that Symantec was no longer able to sell Workspace Profiles. I hadn’t heard that, although I did notice that “Workspace Profiles” is no longer included in any of the Symantec.com web pages about their Endpoint Virtualization Suite. (And it definitely used to be.)

But now it seems like the section previously known as “Profile Virtualization” has been replaced with “Data-on-Demand.” (Interestingly if you click through the “All Products A-Z” link on Symantec.com you can still find a page for Workspace Profiles--it’s just not mentioned on the Suite Page.) And Symantec Workspace Profiles is just randomly missing from the Symantec Enterprise Virtualization downloads page (which has apparently been the case for a few weeks).

I emailed my PR contacts at Symantec to ask them why this product is suddenly missing, but I never heard back.

Why would Symantec suddenly stop selling Workspace Profiles?

I can’t imagine why Symantec would suddenly stop selling the Workspace Profiles product and why they’d be so secret about it. The deal was less than a year old, so it’s not like it expired on its own, and every Symantec employee I’ve talked to over the past year or so has had nothing but good things to say about RTO and the Workspace Profiles product.

So that leads me to wonder whether this was something external? I asked a several people about RTO in general, and the buzz was more about RTO and VMware than RTO and Symantec. Is Symantec’s pulling of Workspace Profiles because VMware is acquiring RTO? I asked my PR contact at VMware for comment, but she just said that VMware doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation. (“Ah-hah! So you’re admitting there’s a rumor?” ;) I also talked to RTO founder and friend of BrianMadden.com Kevin Goodman about this too, but just he said I needed to ask Symantec or VMware. :(

Think of the awesome ways that RTO could help VMware’s desktop strategy

So instead of wasting more time trying to figure out what's going on, let's just tease out the possibility that VMware is planning to acquire RTO Software. Obviously being acquired by VMware would be great for RTO, but the real potential of this deal goes way beyond “Profile Management” per se.

When RTO Software was our Random Vendor of the Week on Brian Madden TV last May, developer Eric Tatum showed us some new functionality where the Virtual Profiles product could be used to manage and sync files outside of a user’s profile folder. That’s what ultimately led me to make the prediction from last week’s Brian Madden TV about 2010 Trends where I said that VMware has to get beyond this whole concept of copying and replicating entire VM disk images.

That’s the problem with VMware View’s experimental offline mode right now. When the user clicks a button to take his or her VM offline, View then copies the entire disk image (or disk image delta file) down to the user's workstation. But since that’s happening at the virtual hardware level--below Windows and below the file system--90%+ of the blocks that make up that disk delta file are completely worthless and do nothing but increase the sync time.

To further understand this, think about what happens if you just boot up Windows, make one little change to a text file, and then shut down Windows again. From a user perspective, you only need to change a few bytes of data in your text file. But how many blocks on the virtual disk actually change? Probably hundreds of megabytes by the time you look at time stamps and temp folders and the page file and all the other stuff that Windows writes to the disk as it’s used.

So VMware’s current Offline VDI concept is this “dumb” mode where it would have to replicate lots of megabytes to the client in order to transfer down the 1k file change. But if VMware owned RTO Software, and if Eric Tatum & Company could rebuild VMware’s offline syncing to happen “in band” (like “inside of Windows”) at the file (or part of file) level, then VMware would end up with a pretty bad-ass solution!

If done right, a user wouldn’t ever have to “check in” or “check out” a VM. The user’s data would just keep syncing in real-time (like with Dropbox or Live Mesh), so prepping the VM for offline use would be a simple as logging out and logging in to another location. (Or maybe VMware could combine live migration & LufLogix to just make this “flow” from device to device?)

So (1) I hope that it’s true that VMware will acquire RTO, and (2) I hope that VMware has the vision to leverage RTO in this new cool way for offline sync instead of just limiting them to user profile management.

Worst case, I guess this gives me a question to ask Scott Davis on Thursday!

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I wonder if Citrix is still making payments to RTO for the OEM agreement they have for the TScale technology?  Wouldn't it be funny if they wrote the check to VMware instead?


If this is actually happening, it seems like a great opportunity for VMware to get a classy group of people that can really help them get their act together with regards to offline VDI and syncing.


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Could we not ask Kevin?


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Brian, it is irresponsible to report this without the details which would paint this as a much less rosy acquisition than you surmise.  And remember Blue Lane?  That acquisition was never announced because they were about to shut the doors.


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Now hang on @relater. I'm not "reporting" anything except that Symantec suddenly stopped selling SWP. The VMware / RTO thing is just a guess as to why that might be.


@Joe Shonl, I did ask Kevin. He said that if I wanted to know why Symantec stopped selling SWP, that I should ask Symantec. And he said that if I wanted to know if VMware was going to buy RTO, I had to ask VMware. So he was no help. :(


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Whether or not any of the rumors are true and whether or not RTO is being acquired b/c of need or being sold  b/c of desperation is less interesting compared to the bigger issue that synchronizing and checking in/out entire hypervisor-based VM images (HW level) is less efficient and less practical compared to doing something at the Operating System / Application / File System Level.


Customers of RingCube vDesk love the fact that they can have a single virtual workspace per user that can run on several different hardware platforms and only a delta-sync is required between them. It makes the reality of delivery a virtual desktop experience ubiquitous.


Here are just 2 examples of why this approach is better than trying to do, as Brian describes it, "dumb" hardware-centric VM sync/check-out


Example #1:


One of our customers, ING Group #1 ranked Fortune 500 Bank (#8 overall Fortune 500), loves the fact that they have the ability to store their vDesk images on McAfee Encrypted Biometric USB drives and can synchronize the delta-changes back to the network for backup or to just run them directly off their PCs.  And for a small subset of users using thin-clients can access their vDesk workspace over VDI (most commonly with VMware View) where the virtual workspace becomes the persistent layer on top of the non-persistent pooled VM.


The value of this approach is ALL the data, settings, profile, GPOs, VPN, and applications (corporate issued and user-installed) are stored within the virtual workspace.  Therefore, synchronizing is far more efficient and creates less licensing complexity so no guest operating systems is being carried around and no need for hardware-level block centric delta transfers which are primarily happening for the OS itself.


The only caveat to make this approach run smoothly is that you have a common OS platform (i.e. XP, Win7) among your varying computing platforms.  However, for most customers having a common OS where all their corporate apps are supported is rarely a deal-breaker.


Example #2:


Take my own vDesk setup, I have 4-5 desktop computing environments I commonly use vDesk from:


1) Corporate issued Dell Workstation (XP) with Multi-Monitors in the RingCube office


2) IBM Thinkpad Laptop (XP)


3) Macbook Pro with Parallels/BootCamp (XP)


4) Custom PC at home with Windows 7 (XP Mode)


5) Western Digital 500GB USB Drive


How do I use all these?


I come into the office in morning, log into my vDesk streamed over the network to my generic/vanilla Dell Workstation.  The streaming is happening via CIFS and the workspace is stored on a central NAS within a VHD container.


If I'm roaming around the office, I have the option to RDP back to that PC in a thin-client like approach (similar to vDesk over VDI with our 3  VDI partners: View, XenDesktop, Oracle/Sun).


If I'm traveling on business, I simply check it out to my IBM Thinkpad (simple delta sync).


If I'm traveling on vacation, I simply check it out to my Macbook Pro via the XP partition (BootCamp/Parallels).


If I'm working at home, I can check it out to my Windows 7 XP Mode image (albeit I lose most of the performance benefits since I'm now running inside a type II hypervisor but our native Windows 7 support is in beta now, with the official release coming out in a month or so).


And lastly, I have my USB drive as a backup / self-service DR solution in case I'm traveling and lose my laptop, then I just plug it into another vanilla PC, sync the delta from the last checkout and back to where I was.  And this is all happening at the application-layer, not hardware, so it's much more granular about what to transfer and what to skip.


With the 5 different PC/Drive options I listed above, I can typically get access to my corporate virtual desktop from almost anywhere with all my applications, data, and settings running at 99.8% of native host performance. And the MobileSync feature in vDesk allows me to have efficient and intelligent sync & check-in/out without having to carry around the 2nd copy of the Windows OS (less complexity around OS licensing)


Hopefully, these are 2 real-world examples of why not having to check out the entire VM and carrying around a guest / second OS is a more efficient, intelligent approach.


We appreciate Brian/Gabe bringing more light to this issue b/c customers raise this concern to us and often select RingCube b/c we help them overcome this obstacle found with offline VDI and HW-centric sync, check-in/out.


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Yikes, thanks for that commercial Doug. Just let me know when I can use RingCube for BYOPC with my Mac! ;)


More importantly, you make a good point that there are many vendors in the space who "get" the smart replication: RingCube, MokaFive, WANova, VERDE, Virtual Computer, Neocleus, RTO... the list goes on. Now all we need is for our "Big 5" (or whatever) vendors to get on board too.


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Brian - can always count on you to poke at the "marketing guy" ;-)


I'm a huge Apple user for home/personal stuff. But for work, OS X just doesn't cut it for me. Office on Mac is such a far cry from Office on Windows. Does anyone like Entourage over Outlook? That said, I use vDesk on my MacBook Pro (Bootcamp, Parallels) it's just not native support to OS X. I know, I know I'm spinning again. ;-)  It's an option if you want it.


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Getting back to the point of this thread. Is anybody out there actually using RTO at scale? I don't know of anybody personally. Most of folks I know that want to do anything powerful at scale use Appsense or RES and don't give a F about RTO because the others are far more powerful or regular profiles/free included version with Citrix (AKA Sepago) is good enough. Would love to hear about any real world RTO at scale implementations and why anybody would bother.


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I hate to love all this. It's like when I'm at the hairdresser, man those women magazines, the celebrity scandals and royal family  rumors. And all those photographs with cartoon like stars shouting "Scandal!".


Seriously guys, I admit I'm a bit  weak for all that. Problem is that I don't cut my hair often enough to satisfy my need for scadals. So, I wanna know either the true story now, or at least get a couple more episodes in this series when the plot thickens...


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@appdetective - to add to your question, what about the apps themselves? We've heard from customers who have some of the largest VDI deployments in the world that their have problems and/or concerns with solution from some of the vendors you listed above b/c not all the settings can be properly captured / stored / roamed because some of those settings are tightly coupled with the applications themselves. Therefore, if the solution can't actually store / virtualize the applications in conjunction with the settings/profile/GPOs then things end up not working as expected.


Have you or anyone else experienced or heard similar concerns?


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@Dougdooley Sound like edge cases. Appsense let's one get more granular at the app level which enables a better single image model. After that it seems like exception mgmt which might as well go in to the image, or stream a native MSI. Ops wait App-V doesn't do that, time to rip out all that sh1t and think again if you got suckered in by those assholes! Come on Symantec why the F don't you advertise this feature?


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Why don't we have a bake-off of the profile mgmt players?


RTO v RES v AppSense v Liquidware v whoever else..... (Atlantis Computing??)


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@DougDooley: Wow! that was one detailed explanation of vDesk. My feeling is that User Profile sync [File level sync v/s block level sync] is a problem that is solved ages ago, and all that one needs to do is partner/OEM instead of re-inventing the wheel.


Block-level sync is still useful when you are deploying image updates etc. So, you need both for a complete solution.


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@Srini - I agree that's why vDesk will be doing more than just one sync technique with our next major release (coming soon). But you have to admit block layer sync at the vmdk/vhd level is far from intelligent.


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I like Keiran's idea of a comparison of all the major players, with pros and cons of each.  That'd be useful.


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Keiran has a good idea, however it must be noted that RTO Virtual Profiles can also be very compatible with other solutions such as our Liquidware Labs ProfileUnity solution...in that case it may not be competitive but complementary.  Users can use ProfileUnity to migrate from existing desktops to VMware View, then use Virtual Profiles for streaming...and take advantage of ProfileUnity to move users in and out of VMs seamlessly if they have heterogeneous Windows environments....and several do.  


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In response to AppDetective, I'm actually using RTO's products and have


been for quite some time. First off, TScale has been a life savior in


CPU management including it's dynamic load balancing among cores. The


memory optimization features of TScale are still bar none the best.


AppSense's engine may have more "features" but at what overhead cost.


I've used both products and found TScale my choice.


As far the the profiles, Virtual Profile (which I also use) has a couple


of advantages. All the other solutions modify the standard way windows


does profiles. It is not a drop in solution. With Virtual Profile, an


admin can simply drop VP on a server or VDI image and immediately stream


the existing roaming profile with no change to the standard way


Microsoft does profiles. While I love the granular application


management of the AppSense product, at what infrastructure costs? When


you begin the scale out the solution, the infrastructure and hardware


costs are sometimes more than the actual software itself. I won't even


comment on Sepago which to me is more like FlexProfiles Advanced. Every


profile solution has its pros and cons for but if you want the "easy


button" Virtual Profile is still a great solution.


All in all, RTO has been many firsts. First with TScale, first to offer


a streaming profile.. so give the guys a break. Any problem once solved is simple...


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I am also a fan of RTO.  We bought TScale what seems like an age ago now and the people at RTO have always been brilliant and very refreshing to work with.  I looked at their Virtual Profiles tool but we didn't really need it in our environment - but it looked good,  Problem we had was in speeding up connection to redirected profile folders on the file servers from the Citrix servers.


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