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VMware View for “Thick” Clients

A few months ago, I posted an inaugural blog about VMware’s overall vision for the desktop. In it, I talked about the value of isolating all aspects of a user’s desktop from the underlying  hardware that executes it. View and our VDI solution directly embraces this vision and recently with View 4 brought the richest remote desktop experience to market with the PCoIP protocol. Today, I’m going to talk about how we are broadening our solutions by extending this desktop vision to a wider range of devices and use cases. I’m referring to so called “thick clients”, physical devices with enough capacity to run your virtual desktop; Desktop PCs and Laptops executing View managed VMs locally.


Now of course the View client can run on this category of system and the user experience will be just like VDI with a thin client. However, customers want some additional options. Users have never been more mobile, and they want the freedom to access their desktop and applications from any location under varying network conditions including the ability to work offline and disconnected from the corporate network. Additionally, user demands continue to grow for local graphic computing requirements, particularly with rich Windows 7 deployments, Windows Aeroglass and 3D graphics.  As the global virtualization leader, we have been developing technologies for our View solution to address the requirements of this ever growing mobile user base. We will be rolling out View Client in Local Mode, a client hosted desktop solution which is currently an experimental feature in our View product portfolio and subsequently View Client in Native Mode, a native client hypervisor.


These technologies enable this class of hardware to run View managed desktop VMs directly on the client hardware. There are many reasons to want to do this. A commonly discussed use case is third party owned or “employee owned IT” (EOIT), allowing many categories of end users to use their own equipment of choice, use it how they see fit, but also give them an IT managed and secured desktop VM that represents their work life. Contractors, partners, offshore, students, and BYOPC employees are all candidates for this type of environment. Moving a Desktop VM to a thick client end point also enables “offline” usage, being able to get work done when not connected to the Internet or the corporate LAN, expanding View to mobile workers and their laptops. It is also suitable for fixed environments where a WAN connection is not reliable enough or efficient enough to deliver a rich remote desktop experience. 3D rendering with use of local graphics acceleration is another reason to move the desktop execution closer to the end point. VMware has been providing comprehensive virtualization solutions for thick clients for over a decade, including Workstation for Windows desktops and Fusion for the Mac. And when discussing 3d graphics functionality, it’s worth noting that  Fusion and Workstation now provide support for DirectX 9.0c Shader Model 3 and OpenGL 2.13D graphics.


VMware is developing two approaches for executing View managed VMs directly on thick View Clients because of the disparate demands of this class of solutions. The initial version is what we call using View Client in Local Mode, currently an experimental feature in View previously known as “Offline VDI”. View Client in Local Mode is a non-managed platform, meaning there is a host operating system on the physical end point and the View managed virtual desktop executes on top of that. This architecture is ideal for the EOIT use case I described in the previous paragraph. The host operating system on the physical client will typically be Windows or MacOS, coupled with an enhanced version of VMware’s virtualization technology.


We are also building our View Client Native Mode (aka CVP), our managed client end point solution that will be subsequently added to the product family. View Client Native Mode is a zero touch, bare metal hypervisor for client end points. Like our ESXi component of the vSphere platform for servers, it is delivered as a locked down, monolithic image and is designed to do one thing and do it well – execute desktop virtual machines. Like View Client in local mode, this architecture is capable of providing offline access to View Managed VMs and has all of the View enhancements. However, View Client Native Mode is intended for IT provided end points with zero additional management overhead, essentially bringing the low management overhead of thin client desktops to the thick client world. There are many use cases for this form of client end point as well, ROBO environments where a central IT department is managing the desktop environment for branch offices, highly secure environments where an employee managed host OS is not trusted, etc.


View Client Native Mode is very much an adjunct to the vSphere platform family, providing customers the ability to extend  the vSphere environment, its operational improvements, manageability and automation to View managed VMs executing on client end points.


So what are some of the View thick client enhancements that are common to both of these solutions? Features such as:


  1. Security and encryption for the View managed VMs to guard against tampering. IT controlled restricted access to local devices from the VM.
  2. Remote management features such as timeout and remote disabling of a View desktop VM under IT control.
  3. Business continuity – Transfer/replication services that efficiently maintains up to date copies of the View managed Desktop VM in the data center so that it can be provisioned to a new device in the event of loss, client hardware upgrades or even a disaster.
  4. And of course, both solutions provide isolation from hardware incompatibilities.


Well Scott, this all sounds great. When can I buy it? You will see us productize the View Client in Local Mode feature for Windows in the very near future. Subsequently we will add MacOS support for View Client in Local Mode and roll out the View Client Native Mode.  I’m very excited about addressing these new use cases and look forward to continued advancement in the desktop virtualization space.


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