User expectations of their business computing environments are changing, being driven by their experiences as consumers. New state of the art devices and user interfaces, cloud computing and the associated SaaS-based applications, ubiquitous connectivity. These trends are converging and when combined are profoundly influencing the direction of end-user computing.
What are some of the traits of this consumer cloud experience?
- A better user experience – simplicity;
- Instant gratification, multiple devices;
- Always available – my apps and data are backed up, replicated or synched;
- Ubiquitous access;
- Personalized – small, engaging applications (at least the client part is small);
- Pay as you go;
- Excitement and anticipation for the next great device or application.
In the technology sense, what does this mean?
- Encapsulation and isolation between applications;
- Rock solid data protection;
- Simple and easy.
Sound familiar? It should as these are VMware’s core competencies.
The challenge for enterprise IT will be to meet these expectations in the corporate environment while maintaining corporate policy, delivering on SLAs and flexible delivery at low cost. And to do so at the appropriate user and application granularity, all the while bridging to the world of Windows applications and desktops.
Delivering this consumer cloud experience for the enterprise is our mission at VMware’s End-User Computing Products Group (read more about our vision in today’s End-User Computing announcement) and our vision for user-centric IT, which I first described in my vision blog exactly one year ago.
VMware View 4.5
The first step on this vision is to modernize the Windows desktop – encapsulate and isolate the elements of a Windows environment to make them more manageable and user-centric. Today, I’m really glad that I am finally able to talk openly about this next phase of our User-Centric Computing journey and I am pleased to announce the very significant View 4.5 release. First let me be clear about the 4.5 nomenclature; naming aside, this release is as broad in scope as any .0 product and really delivers on the promise of virtualization to modernize today’s desktop environment.
Today I want to offer a tour through some of the View 4.5 technologies:
Modernizing the Desktop:
In my vision blog, I spoke about the notion of composited desktops. To reiterate and provide context, both Server and Client VMs achieve much of their value through encapsulation and isolation from the physical hardware used to execute them. However, Client VMs also differ from their more static Server VM cousins in that they can be more complex to manage; running lots of different applications, many ad-hoc and stateful. I postulated that separating such a Client VM into a set of isolated virtual layers would ultimately be a better architecture for managing them. Well, now this abstract idea is available commercially and we call the result “Modular Desktops”, a major step towards a more modern desktop architecture.
In View 4.5, we have 3 layers in our Modular Desktops, the Operating System, the Applications and the User Persona and each of these layers has an optimized management technology geared to the unique characteristics of its respective layer. Best of all, these optimized layer management tools are all seamlessly integrated and controlled via the common View Manager interface.
View Composer is the technology we use to manage the OS layer. Now View Composer is not new, but what is new are significant functional enhancements that make it far more effective. We are introducing tiered storage support for View Composer, which enables the separation of the read-only gold master image, the redo log snapshots and even the guest OS paging file onto separate storage LUNs. This is very powerful – the read-only gold master is ideally suited for storage on SSD/flash drives, and by doing so time oriented I/O storms can be very cost effectively avoided.
For example, with this architecture, if many desktop VMs boot at the same time the OS images are all now loaded from cache-like SSDs, not via spinning media. Also, by moving the paging file and system temp files to separate “disposable” storage, a major cause of storage space consumption in the redo logs is eliminated, reducing the need to frequently regenerate the images. Paging files can even be moved off the SAN entirely and use local disks – these are transient and do not need to be preserved. This disposable storage is discarded after every user session.
View Composer also has added Sysprep support, enabling automatic generation of a unique SID for each cloned VM. Lastly, Persistent Disks (formerly known as UDD) are now first-class manageable objects, independent of the base VM and can be detached, migrated, reattach or even archived. With Persistent Disks, 4.5 begins to deliver the benefits of User Persona virtualization for stateful desktops. There’s more to come here once we complete integration of the RTO Virtual Profiles technology that I blogged about back in February into the View platform.
View leverages another product release we announced today – ThinApp 4.6 – for application virtualization, separating applications from the Guest OS and isolating them from each other. It is a robust technology in widespread use and with View 4.5 we’ve added integration and management through the View Manager console. ThinApp applications can now be packaged and stored on a network file share in what we call a repository and these repositories can be imported into View Manager. Once there, applications can be assigned to selected individual desktops or designated pools of desktops.
You can choose to have them streamed via a “shortcut” or have the ThinApp’ed EXE/MSI deployed locally onto the VM. ThinApp 4.6 has a myriad of great new features in its own right, but I wanted to explicitly call out one critical capability – our ThinApp Windows 7 support enables virtualization of legacy apps on older Windows platforms for deployment to Windows 7. This has been a major stumbling block for enterprises as they have considered migration to Windows 7. With ThinApp 4.6 we ease this pain point.
And these technologies that comprise View 4.5’s modular desktops are all exposed and managed through one integrated console, View Manager.
In my January blog on our thick client strategy, I introduced the View Client with Local Mode architecture for running View Managed VMs on unmanaged end-points. I said this was the ideal architecture for the Employee-Owned IT (EOIT/BYOPC) trend and that we would deliver it “soon”. Well, soon meant View 4.5 and View Client with Local Mode enables checkout and execution of View Managed VMs on almost any modern laptop. View Client with Local Mode, the industry’s first integrated offline virtual desktop solution enables users to access their virtual desktop even while disconnected from the network.
These VMs are usable when disconnected from the network. The VM is transferred to the end point and changes are efficiently replicated back to the data center in a sophisticated, fine grained manner when connected. VMs are encrypted using AES 128 or 256 bit modes and of course centrally managed through View Manager.
View Client with Local Mode brings all of the operational benefits – Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery, Rapid Provisioning, Security as well as Centralized Management and control to mobile users who require the freedom to work online and off the grid. And since it is based on common technology from the VMware Workstation product line, View Client with Local Mode even supports advanced graphics requirements including Win7 Aeroglass effects, DirectX 9 with 3D and sound and multimedia.
Also new in this release is a native Mac Client to allow Mac users to access their View virtual desktops expanding the number of uses cases that can benefit from View. The current release of this client uses RDP and will be supported with Mac OS 10.5 and above. Of course, subsequent versions will incorporate PCoIP.
We’ve added simplified sign on and authentication for virtual desktops over PCoIP channels supporting various authentication mechanisms including Windows username/password, smart cards/proximity cards, USB-connected biometric devices and a new “kiosk-mode” enabling MAC address-based authentication for fully unattended View Client operation. The release also supports “Tap and Go” functionality from our partner SSO Vendors – Imprivata, Sentillion, Juniper, etc.
These were some of the most passionate requests that came from our customers and we think that they will appreciate the new functionality.
Our integrated View Manager console is a critical part of the View experience and prompted Brian Madden to state in his geek week write-up that “Really it’s like View is a giant “easy button.” With View 4.5, we’re not resting on our laurels and have continued to improve our already best in class management interface. View now sports a rich new management console look and feel based on Adobe Flex, that displays tens of thousands VMs and related objects in one consolidated view. An important enhancement is delegated role-based administration, allowing the View administrator to create different roles with different access to View Manager by users/groups/virtual machines. This way IT can delegate tasks among different levels of staff while maintaining control over admin access.
We’ve also created a unified view of event logs across entire View infrastructure – no more logging into each view broker separately to get information. Events are now formally defined with unique identifiers and standard attributes including module, user, desktops. Historical events can be stored in a configurable database that is accessed via VMware View Administrator. Report on events in the database using third-party reporting tools such as Crystal Reports to run audit reports.
As part of the extensibility of View, we have included a management pack for MSFT SCOM. This allows organizations that use SCOM to discover the View virtual environment which was not possible before. Now IT can use SCOM to discover, monitor their entire operation (physical and virtual) Including the ability to start/restart View services from SCOM console and enabling desktop administrators to receive SCOM View alerts indicating when and why something is in trouble with View servers. We’ve also added compatibility with Powershell, enabling extended management and scripting capabilities of the View environment through Powershell commands.
Finally, the new View manager UI delivers a comprehensive dashboard that provides quick insights into the current status of systems (View and vCenter) and virtual desktops and is scalable to larger configurations than previous releases. With vSphere and our block/pod based architecture, we continue to scale the View infrastructure modularly and horizontally. And now with View 4.5 there have been numerous improvements behind the scenes to the View Manager and its connection broker architecture yielding improved performance and scalability of the management interface; enabling management of a dramatically larger set of Desktop VMs through a single pane of glass.
I’m really pleased that I was able to share with you, for the first time publicly, what our View engineering team has been up to over this past year. They’ve sure been busy! I’m confident that you’ll agree with me that View 4.5 is a major step forward in virtual desktop technology, bringing a new level of modernization in desktop architecture to the marketplace and we’re looking forward to putting it in our customer’s hands in September.
Oh, and one more thing… If you think this is cool, just wait until you learn more at VMworld about our plans beyond the desktop…