VMware finally gets all its end-user computing ideas together as one

'Workspace One' to compete with Citrix's Workspace Suite, with help from new PCoIP alternative 'Blast'

VMware has taken the wraps off what looks like the culmination of several years building an end-user computing business.

Workspace ONE is the name of the new product, an odd choice given that arch-rival Citrix offers Workspace Suite and Workspace Cloud.

The similarity doesn't end there. Both companies now offer different application publication offerings backed by single sign-on that lets users on just about any device access a collection of apps personalised to their needs, roles and rights. Both have mobile device management. Both have virtual desktops they'll pipe into lots of places, with GPU pass-through if required.

VMware thinks it has stolen a march with single-sign-on (SSO) now spanning anything that talks Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML). That's important because Virtzilla thinks HR departments and the like that have signed up for software-as-a-service (SaaS) on the sly are now being told they need to mobilise those apps, and IT wants to make sure it's done right. Enter the cheapest cut of Workspace One, which does SSO to secure access to SaaS and throws in the ability to mobilise common productivity applications. Hop aboard at this entry-level and you'll be ready to do secure app distribution. Box ticked, then, for mobilising SaaS, from US$8 a month per user.

A more expensive cut adds unified endpoint management – mobile devices and desktops – and an enterprise level adds virtual desktops.

Workspace One is mostly branding and packaging – only the SAML-powered SSO is truly new – but it's still a milestone because VMware's been working towards this moment for years. Virtzilla-watchers will remember all manner of attempts to do an enterprise app store for mobile devices, such as the failed Zimbra acquisition Project Octopus, detours into dual-persona phones and adventures with Dropbox clones and Project Enzo. This time around VMware thinks it's got all the right ingredients and is ready to rumble.

The company it wants to put in a nasty headlock is Citrix, which VMware thinks is overdue some competition.

One thing VMware thinks gives it an edge is that it's still up to its neck in hypervisor development, while Citrix has backed away in order to make XenServer complementary to its other products. VMware's expertise has now spawned “Blastextreme”, an alternative to PCoIP that relies on H.264 capable devices. Blastextreme is said to do better on lossy networks – think out-of-the-way spots or devices on mobile networks – and therefore to extend desktop virtualisation beyond the office. Citrix makes similar claims about the powers of its HDX and NetScaler products. VMware's perhaps ahead by a nose by being able to deliver virtual PCs from its own cloud or your premises, or both.

VMware's also finalised its “spawn a zillion virty desktops real fast without killing the SAN, LAN or WAN” efforts, putting it in a position to promise it can deliver 2,000 desktops in 20 minutes.

Let battle be joined, then, as VMware now looks to have assembled an end-user computing stack that includes everything it's discussed over the years, now all branded-up and pretty.

VMware badly wants this to work, because it's had plenty of mis-steps along the way. The company's end-user computing business is doing well, but VMware admits vSphere's best growth-producing days are gone. End-user computing is one of the new businesses VMware sees as increasing sales to take up vSphere's slack. Mobility is the trend VMware hopes gets it there, by accelerating demand for application publishing and virtual desktops out of the ghetto of thin-client-land and into the hands of mobile workers. Virtzilla and Citrix are also making a play for the future of the on-premises desktop, with desktop virtualisation's costs now falling to a point at which PCs look less attractive to enterprises.

Interesting times have therefore come to the unglamorous end-user computing niche of the enterprise computing market, and two less-than-perfectly fit combatants are up for what should be a fascinating bout. VMware's fighting for a lifeline. Citrix for its life. Which should make for fascinating action. ®

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