Virtual desktop start-up targets VMware and Citrix users

A virtual desktop start-up Unidesk is aiming to improve deployments of VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop with management software that it says reduces storage costs and gives users a more personalized desktop than the VDI tools by themselves.

FAQ: Desktop virtualization

Unidesk, founded in 2007 in Marlborough, Mass., is still in stealth mode but describes its technology and management team on its Web site. Unidesk was founded by CTO Chris Midgley, a former Iron Mountain executive, and is led by President and CEO Don Bulens, who previously held the same positions at EqualLogic, a storage company acquired by Dell two years ago. Unidesk recently secured $12 million in second-round venture funding from Matrix Partners and North Bridge Venture Partners.

The virtual desktop market is expected to expand considerably over the next year or so, in part because desktop virtualization products are reaching maturity just in time for Windows 7 upgrade cycles.

Unidesk claims that today's VDI products do little to contain operational costs related to image management, patching, application delivery and desktop support, and that the products boost storage costs while limitating desktop personalization and off-line use.

Unidesk virtual desktop management products are in a beta trial which is open to customers who "have deployed hosted virtual desktops on VMware virtual infrastructure and are using a connection broker such as VMware View/VDI, Citrix XenDesktop, Leostream, or RDP." General availability is expected later this year.

One beta customer is the Université Rennes 2, a college in France where IT co-director Humberto Duarte says Unidesk "will be very useful for us" because it helps manage desktop tasks such as operating system delivery and streaming, application packaging and versioning, and user data and personalization.

Unidesk has filed a patent application for its "CacheCloud" desktop image delivery software, the foundation for its forthcoming technology.

CacheCloud is "a system of virtual appliances – called CachePoints – that replicates operating system, application, and personalization containers across an enterprise network, delivering them to the edge where they are synthesized through Unidesk Composite Virtualization into rich, personal desktops," the company says.

Offline support will let users access their personal desktops from any computer even when disconnected from the network, and changes are automatically synced to the data center once connected.

CacheCloud integrates with desktops hosted on several types of server virtualization platforms from VMware, Citrix and Microsoft, and is accessed through different connection brokers including VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop. Unidesk says its grid architecture eliminates single points of failure, while security features allow automated destruction of sensitive data and applications on laptops that have been lost or stolen.

Unidesk has a heavy focus on storage, given the past experience of its management team. A backup and recovery feature replicates all user customizations in the data center, and CacheCloud works with any type of direct-attached storage, SAN or NAS products.

According to a 451 Group report on Unidesk, the company has developed a highly efficient storage mechanism for reads and writes and other user data, and "is built to scale efficiently to hundreds of thousands of desktops across disparate geographies."

While the technology seems promising, it's too early to say whether Unidesk will live up to its bold claims, the 451 Group said."Unidesk's demo does make provisioning and maintaining state for virtual desktops look effortless," the report states. "That's no mean feat. We are fans of the company's deep roots in storage and its clear-eyed perspective on the desktop management problem. We are keen, though, to see named reference customers and case studies out in the field. As with any company fresh out of stealth, the technology needs to live up to its early hype."

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "Virtual desktop start-up targets VMware and Citrix users" was originally published by Network World.

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