USB drive storage allows desktop virtualisation

Portability is the main benefit of a new VMware tool, one analyst says

VMware is testing a desktop virtualisation program that can be stored on a USB drive and moved from one computer to another.

VMware is to introduce a public beta version of ACE 2 Enterprise Edition, an upgrade of its two-year-old ACE (Asssured Computing Environment) program for virtualising desktop computers so they can run multiple software or operating systems. One of the new features is Pocket ACE, which allows the user to store the ACE desktop virtualisation tool on a USB drive, a portable hard drive or an Apple iPod, plug it into a remote computer, and run the virtualisation software on that computer.

The VMware news coincides with the impending release of an upgraded server virtualisation product from rival Virtual Iron.

VMware’s Pocket ACE is designed for mobile workers who may not have a laptop with them in the field, but could use an available desktop computer and run the company’s virtualisation platform from the USB drive, says Jerry Chen, VMware’s director of desktop platforms.

The new ACE program also features VMware ACE Management Server, which gives a system administrator control over the virtualisation program run on desktops. The administrator can control access, security settings and software updates from a single console. Changes in settings are delivered to the client computer when they connect to the corporate server. Desktop or laptop computers running VMware ACE can run the virtual desktop on their computers alongside whatever operating system and files the computer already runs, says Chen. This would suit contract employees who use their own computers when working for a client.

The administrator can also shut off the virtual desktop remotely when needed, for example when a company gives access to its computer system for a specific contract term. Access privileges can be set to expire when the contract is completed.

Virtualisation is most prevalent in the server environment where servers run multiple software applications or operating systems simultaneously. While virtualisation of the desktop is a logical extension of the technology, adoption is more limited, says Charles King, president and principal analyst at Pund-IT, a technology analyst firm.

“Desktop virtualisation is still a relatively unexplored territory,” he says.

However, he sees some value in the Pocket ACE portability feature.

“As mobile and remote workers become more the norm, it gives those employers a great deal of flexibility.”

Virtual Iron said its Version 3.5 upgrade adds support for iSCSI. The iSCSI connection is one-tenth the price of the alternative Fibre Channel connection.

Version 3.5 also features one server installation, says Mike Grandinetti, Virtual Iron’s chief marketing officer. With one server installation, the same server that runs the virtualisation management program for the enterprise can also act as a virtual server.

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