A few packages are available that let companies manage the life cycles of their systems virtually, though the major one, from VMware (NYSE: VMW), still requires manual downloading of updates.
Enter the MokaFive Virtual Desktop Solution, which automates life cycle management for virtual machines and automatically compresses files to reduce network overhead.
MokaFive unveils this product as enterprises move into virtualization and realize they will need manage their life virtually as they do the physical world.
Its main benefit is ease of management. “MokaFive wants to simplify the image management of virtual desktops to manage life cycle and policy around local desktops,” IDC analyst Michael Rose told InternetNews.com.
The competition right now consists of VMware’s enterprise desktop management offering, VMware Ace; down the road Microsoft will come into play.
Microsoft acquired Kidaro in March for about $100 million; this product will let system administrators put together a package of applications, take a snapshot of that configuration and then load it onto the server, desktop or laptop, which is pretty much what MokaFive is doing.
Kidaro, however, won’t be available for some time yet; it’s being integrated with the Microsoft Desktop Virtualization Pack, which includes an application virtualization technology known as SoftGrid, and asset management tools that came from Microsoft’s acquisition of AssetMetrix.
Microsoft hasn’t discussed the timeline for integrating Kidaro with its Desktop Virtualization Pack.
The MokaFive Virtual Desktop Solution is based on a research project at Stanford University that was spun out in 2005.
It loads a virtual image of the desktop onto the user’s device, so every time a user starts up the operating system, a fresh copy of it is loaded onto the desktop.
“You get everything fresh, from your user data to settings to personal files to the OS,” MokaFive’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Dr. John Whaley, told InternetNews.com. “It’s like throwing away your computer and getting a new one every time you start up.”
Essentially, MokaFive takes the Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM) — the core virtual layer that separates the hardware from software — and builds intelligent services around it “so you can move the software from machine to machine, distribute it across the Internet or around the world,” Whaley said.
Updates to the master image are automatically sent to users, and here’s where it differs from VMware Ace.
“With VMware Ace, you can package up a virtual machine and send that out, but it doesn’t handle subsequent updates; if users want to get a new version, they have to go out and download it,” Whaley said.
“We handle the entire life cycle from creation to deployment to updates, and the updates are built in so the user doesn’t have to do anything.”
Another difference between MokaFive’s product and VMware’s solution is that “we have compression inherent in our system, so when the systems administrator creates an image, it automatically compresses for upload to the server and for download to the user desktops,” Whaley said.
Other capabilities are pretty standard when virtual images are used: The image can be carried on a USB drive, for instance, and the image lets you do an end run around malware because you just shut down the computer and download a fresh image.
Jerry Chen, senior director of enterprise desktops at VMware, told InternetNews.com that the company has a product called PocketAce, which lets users transport files on USB or a portable hard drive.
Citrix, another major player in the virtual machine area, also offers extreme portability and demonstrated an iPod with a virtual desktop in it at the end of January, Sanjay Uppal, vice president of product marketing in Citrix’s (NASDAQ: CTXS) application networking group, told InternetNews.com. “Our client runs with practically any hardware available out there,” he added.
While MokaFive is now using VMware’s VMM technology, it will announce support for other VMMs later this year, Whaley said.
The MokaFive Virtual Desktop Solution could prove useful to smaller companies, which could run desktops in the cloud and outsource their helpdesks, but “we’re pretty far from that right now,” Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Bowker told InternetNews.com.
Current deployments are in the “thousands of desktops,” Bowker explained.