Desktop Races Towards Virtualization

Two desktop virtualization companies have been gobbled up in the past week. First Thinstall got swallowed by virtualization kingpin VMware, and now Microsoft announces its acquisition of Calista , maker of desktop graphics virtualization software. Both purchases are smart moves and here's why.

The market is stuck on the idea that virtualization's killer app is in the data center. No doubt about it, virtualization has a big impact consolidating, optimizing and changing how we think about servers and the data center. The next wave of the virtualization tsunami though is on the desktop, followed by the network.

Thinstall is a brilliant concept. Just like virtualization removes the hardware hooks from software, Thinstall removes the hooks that application software typically have to latch onto when installed in the operating system. Remember all those registry conflicts and leftovers from old applications? It's a thing of the past with application virtualization. Applications now can be run as one standalone .exe, and you could run multiple of them on the same machine, without installing the software. Visit the Thinstall web site and run the Firefox virtualized application to see what I'm talking about.

Applications can also be streamed over the network. It's starting to bridge the gap between traditional software applications and On Demand software.

Calista addresses a different aspect of application virtualization: performance. Specifically, graphics performance. Calista brings in the concept of a virtualization GPU (graphics processing unit), similar to the much higher hardware GPUs we're familiar with from nVidia and ATI. Calista helps applications make better use of GPUs and improves their performance, particularly when multiple users and applications are running on the same machine. It's an important problem to address and Microsoft is wise for snatching them up.

Expect to see more and more about application virtualization in the coming months. The industry is racing to capture the desktop in a whole new virtualized way.

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