Client, or desktop, virtualization is not a new concept. Microsoft has its Virtual PC and VMware Inc. sells ACE and Workstation.
Enter the client hypervisor. It's not a panacea, but an add-on to existing desktop virtualization technologies, giving IT shops and users the ability to run virtual machines on a client, independent of the operating system.
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While Microsoft Virtual PC and VMware ACE and Workstation create encapsulated virtual desktops or virtual machines (VMs) on a client device, VMs still depend on an operating system that runs inside the VM. A client hypervisor on the other hand is a software layer that runs directly on the bare metal of a device, separate from the operating system.
"You get the best of both worlds with a client hypervisor," said Brian Madden, an independent industry analyst and virtualization expert. "You can be offline, and you can use graphics-intensive applications [and also not have to deal with] the headaches of patching and managing the underlying OS … you don't need Windows to run it."
With VDI, a user must be connected to a network to gain access to data and personal settings. Also, graphics-laden applications do not fair well because of latency issues during the transfer to the client device.
This opens up more possibilities to IT shops trying to maintain control of their environments, yet still gives users the flexibility to use the device and applications of their choice.
"With a client hypervisor, end users can have multiple images on their desktop … a virtual machine with their personal image and, separate from that, a corporate image that can still be locked down and managed by IT," said Andi Mann, research director with Enterprise Management Associates, a Boulder, Colo.-based consulting firm.
Managers taste paradise?
As for management, IT can significantly reduce the number of images it has to update and manage by sending out updates to controlled and locked down corporate images simultaneously.
It's nirvana to think that an enterprise with 20,000 images will get down to managing one master image for corporate virtual machines. Such a diverse environment cannot be minimized to just one image, but cutting down on the number of images to match user groups will result in cost savings and free up IT resources, Mann said.
VMware said it expects to release a client hypervisor in 2009. Citrix Systems Inc. is not giving a timeframe for the release of its client hypervisor, but said it is working on technology that integrates a client-side hypervisor as well as application and desktop streaming, application and desktop hosting and end user profile and context management, according to a company blog.
A client hypervisor would also build on technology that VMware is developing as part of its vision to create what the company is calling a universal client -- where a user can gain anywhere, anytime access to data, applications and personal settings regardless of the end device.