Tuesday, February 3, 2009

VMWare Goes Open Source, VDI

In a rather sudden and bold move VMware has open sourced their client for virtual desktop infrastructure client called the VMware View Open Client (no I'm not dyslexic, that's the name). This announcement could have drastic ramifications within the VDI ecosystem. Also surprising is that it's hosted at Google Code, which could indicate something brewing between the two.

The VMware VOC lets you connect from a Linux desktop to remote Windows desktops managed by VMware View. It is available under the GNU Lesser General Public License version 2.1 (LGPL v 2.1). (Personally I would have preferred to see GPL3.0, but beggars can't be choosers)

According to the release, the VDI client has been optimized for thin client devices and is encouraged for use by thin client partners applications and devices. Partners are encouraged to use this open source software to develop clients fo non-x86 platforms, or operating systems other than Windows XP/e or Linux.

So what does all this mean? For one, it represents a shot across the bow of the Redmond giant Microsoft who is already offering their hyper-v platform free of charge. It also pits them directly against the other "open source" virtualization company -- Citrix, who's main money maker is their proprietary desktop virtualization platform. It is interesting to see if this move forces Citrix to actually finally embrace open source for anything other then their Xen project. It will also be interesting to see if RedHat with their KVM or Ericom follow suit and offer some level of "free" VDI. Until today the only real open source VDI platform was Nomachines FreeNX. This cetainly changes the playing field.

The move also seems to be an attenpt to solidify VMware's position in the potentially huge "cloud" or thin client virtual desktop market. According to Gartner, (not exactly an ideal source of prognostications), they predict;
  • That approximately 50 million user licenses for hosted virtual desktops will be purchased by 2013.
  • The thin-client terminal will account for about 40% of user devices for hosted virtual desktop deployment.
It is my opinion that as we move into the 4th generation of computing (Thanks Cisco), there will be two camps emerging. Those who use cloud applications and various as-a-service Internet centric software approaches, and those who hold on to the traditional desktop centric approaches such as large enterprises, etc. I feel the key difference in this new computing era will be that the desktops will start to look more like services, and VMware knows this all to well.

Many companies including Verizon already have active cloud desktop services under development, who knows maybe in the near future your computer will be provided by your ISP. I know I can't wait for my Comcast Desktop, yikes.

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