What a difference two years makes! A couple years ago, Wanova was in fundraising mode with Sand Hill VCs. As Cloud & Virtualization EIR for Trinity Ventures, I sat in on a great pitch from Wanova, but left it wondering if Wanova was more Mozy + Acronis. Obviously, either the story wasn’t quite baked, or I didn’t get it. Now less than 2 years later, VMware has acquired Wanova.
Here’s my perspective on why this deal sets up fundamental changes in the way virtual desktops will work in the future. This is of more than passing interest; I formerly ran strategic planning for the Citrix virtualization business, launched the Citrix’s first virtual desktop broker offering,(pre-Xen), and was an advisor to – and helped through M&A – Startforce, a hosted web-based VDI service. Heck, my first Citrix Presentation Server was a beta version of Windows NT 3.51. I would have a Virtual Dekstop tattoo if it wouldn’t look like a Powerpoint icon.
For some types of workers in high security environments, Virtual desktops are the only way to effectively deliver useful desktops. But the industry as a whole usually tries to sell virtual desktops as being lower-cost or easier to manage. To use a technical term, that’s total BS. At the end of the day, you have to secure and manage whatever device is accessing the virtual desktop and you need to secure and manage the virtual desktop itself. You can make this easier by using thin clients for some users, which reduces the burden of managing one end of the virtual desktop, but doesn’t solve to problem for most users.
Here’s the dirty secret about (pre-Wanova) VDI: most users don’t want virtual desktops.
There, I said it. There are exceptions. People with desk jobs who don’t take their work home and don’t use tablets can easily be bribed to accept VDI. All you have to do is offer them a larger screen for a better keyboard and they’ll love VDI. The problem is that most companies only have so many people in these roles. Virtualization companies like to make up words to describe these workers, like ” task worker” ” line worker” or “hourly worker.” At Citrix, we used to have daylong debates about the most politically correct term to use to describe end-users who simply didn’t have enough influence to block VDI on their own desktops. My vote was “grunt.”
If you’re reading this blog, and you don’t work for Citrix or VMware, the odds are you’ve used your influence to prevent your own desktop being virtualized and centralized. It’s not that you don’t crave the benefits of having a continuously backed up, highly secure desktop that is always available from any device. We all want that. But what you don’t want is a desktop that only works when you have bandwidth, or one that is excessively locked down. To date, your options have been limited.
The combination of Wanova and VMware will change all that. The reason is that we all really do crave the benefits of continuous desktop backup, high-security, and accessing desktop power from our iPads, but not enough to trade our ability to get work done when we are untethered from bandwidth. Wanova gives us this.
In short, what it does is maintain a consistent image of a virtual machine that runs as a local virtual machine on your laptop and also on a server in the cloud. That way, you make a change on the local overflow machine on your laptop, it will end up also changing the cloud. If you change the cloud instance using your tablet, it will change the virtual machine on your laptop to match as soon as you connect your laptop to bandwidth. You simply don’t need to think about what device you’re using and whether it’s a cloud image or a local image – It. Just. Works.
That is the VDI holy grail – all the benefits of virtual desktops, all the benefits of laptop power.
Well done, VMware. Now I can’t wait to virtualize my laptop because it will make me more productive, not less! And I’m willing to pay a premium for that, which matters a lot in these days of commodity virtualization hypervisors. This is the type of strategy that will prevent Microsoft from NetScaping you by offering free virtualization licenses.