VMware buys CloudVolumes, application layers on the horizon

With VMware's CloudVolumes acquisition, admins can provide personalized virtual desktops without managing separate images for each user. Applications will work more like they do on mobile devices, too.

VMware's acquisition of CloudVolumes, a desktop application delivery vendor, will allow organizations to simplify desktop image management.

CloudVolumes' layering technology gives the appearance of a personalized desktop for every user, presenting specific applications, files and settings. But those components, as well as the OS, are all independent layers, and IT only has to manage one instance of each for the entire environment -- not one for each user, as is typically the case in desktop virtualization environments.

"Layering isn't new, but this goes further than any I've seen," said Matt Kosht, IT director at a utility company in Alaska.

Deconstructing desktop image management

The CloudVolumes acquisition marks VMware's latest step towards unifying desktop and mobile management.

In May, Kit Colbert, VMware’s end-user computing CTO spoke about the trouble with desktop management in the mobile era. He noted how Windows application installs and updates require changes to the OS registry, which can adversely affect other applications. In a post-keynote interview at a conference in Boston, he described aspects of desktop management as "archaic."

Desktop management … needs to be deconstructed.
Sumit DhawanVMware

That's a stark contrast from mobile apps. The files they need to run are self-contained, and users can install and update apps without having to restart their devices. CloudVolumes brings those same capabilities to the desktop; because applications aren't actually installed on the OS, the desktop doesn't need to be restarted when a new application is delivered or updated.

"Desktop management is creating this world of operating systems and apps that all work together," said Sumit Dhawan, VMware's senior vice president and general manager for desktops. "That needs to be deconstructed."

VMware's plans for CloudVolumes

A handful of other third-party vendors offer application layering technology, including FSLogix Inc., Liquidware Labs Inc. and Unidesk Corp.

VMware Horizon already uses one layering technology, Mirage, for desktop management. VMware risks confusing customers since it now offers two layering technologies -- plus ThinApp, which also abstracts applications from the OS, by using virtualization -- Kosht said.

"[CloudVolumes] completely destroys a lot of the use cases for Mirage and ThinApp, so why would I use them all?" he said.

Mirage primarily manages physical desktops that require offline access, whereas CloudVolumes was designed for constantly connected virtual desktops, Dhawan said. Customers can put the two technologies to work together, using Mirage to manage the base OS layer and CloudVolumes for the applications, files and settings, he added.

That makes sense but could still create confusion, given that CloudVolumes also addresses some physical desktop management use cases, Kosht said.

"What do I pick to do what?" he said.

VMware plans to integrate CloudVolumes with its other end-user computing technology "very rapidly," Dhawan said. He declined to provide a specific timeframe or details of the integration.

CloudVolumes was founded in 2011 and is based in Santa Clara, Calif. Harry Labana will head up the CloudVolumes team within VMware. Labana, CloudVolumes' senior vice president and chief product officer, previously served as CTO at AppSense Inc. and Citrix's desktop division.

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