VMWare and Intel announced today that they're putting their heads together to develop a product that will let IT managers support, control, change and reprovision virtual desktops and laptops from a central location. This could be helpful for firms that have employees who travel a lot, work from home or are in offices that are geographically far apart.
The Intel technology involved is vPro, a chip that allows desktop and laptop computers to be set up, fixed, controlled and managed remotely, even if the computers themselves are turned off, have crashed or the operating system can't load. This means an IT person in Omaha could troubleshoot and fix the computer problems of a hedge fund manager in Greenwich, CT, even at 3:00 a.m. while the manager is asleep and his PC unplugged or dead. Or a home user can initiate a key sequence in a BIOS setup screen that connects him, even with the OS not running, to an enterprise management console. Or a user who is traveling can check out an image of the laptop he normally uses, use it offline while on the plane or train, and check the image back in at the end of the day to synchronize his work with enterprise servers.
When I first wrote about this technology two years ago, several people wrote to me to say it's not possible to fix a computer remotely when that machine is turned off or has crashed. So I hauled myself off to a desolate corner of New Jersey (Hackensack, I think) to see a vPro demonstration with my own eyes and to speak with people who have used it. In the demo, at least, it really worked and a consultant I spoke with was providing IT support to clients through the use of vPro. You can read more about this here.
The VMWare contribution to this effort is the VMware Client Virtualization Platform, a bare-metal client hypervisor that runs on desktop and notebook client PCs using Intel Core2 and Centrino 2 processors with Intel vPro and VMware View Manager and VMware View Composer. VMware View Manager is a desktop management server that enables IT administrators to quickly provision and tightly control user access. VMware View Composer enables IT to create thousands of virtual desktop environments rapidly from a master image and update these images by simply updating the master while consuming up to 70 percent less storage space, according to VMWare.
The two products combined will enable end users to run virtualized desktop environments on desktop or notebook PCs and work online or offline while IT administrators manage these environments securely from a central location. Dell is a partner here as well, and actual products should be available in the second quarter of this year. Pricing and packaging have not been determined or announced.