IBM rolls out virtual desktop offering

Through its partner program, IBM unveils a virtual desktop offering for small businesses

With an eye on the small and medium-sized business market, IBM is working through resellers to roll out a VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) package that costs US$150 per user annually.

The IBM Virtual Desktop for Smart Business offering should help ease the high administrative overhead normally associated with setting up VDI deployments, said Dan Cerutti, general manager of IBM's Smart Business Solutions unit. In many cases, small organizations do not have the IT expertise to deal with the complexities of VDI. This package will allow integrators to offer a headache-free VDI, he said.

"We've dramatically simplified how you order and buy these things. Everything is included in the Virtual Desktop Solution," Cerutti said.

The VDI package will allow workers to access desktops from a variety of devices, including iPads and thin clients. They could access both Microsoft Windows and Linux-based operating system desktops. Users can even run the desktops without connectivity, by use of a USB drive.

IBM will not offer this package to customers directly; instead it will offer it to resellers and integrators who service small and midsized organizations. Thus far, IBM has found about 100 partners worldwide to vend this product, Cerutti said.

The partners could install the equipment and software on the customer's premise, or manage it internally as a hosted service. IBM may offer the package itself as a hosted service in the near future, Cerutti said. No minimum number of users is needed to sign up, though the service requires a one-year contract.

The desktops are managed centrally, on IBM System X servers running Suse Linux. The desktop virtualization is done through the Verde software, offered by Virtual Bridges. This approach uses a KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) hypervisor for the server, along with bare-metal, or Type 1, hypervisors installed on the client. The package also includes IBM's Smart Business Foundation, a collection of management tools that ease configuration and maintenance.

For desktop OSes, the package can run Windows XP and Windows 7, as well as Linux desktop offerings from Canonical, Red Hat and Novell.

The typical setup for the end customer involves establishing a few "gold masters" or operating system instances, along with a set of applications, that can be used by a set of employees. Each employee's desktop can have access to personal data, as well as personal preferences such as bookmarks for their browsers. IBM estimates that 200 desktops can be run from a single IBM server.

The IBM Virtual Desktop for Smart Business is the first of what will be a number of pre-configured IBM systems aimed at easing deployments for small to midsized organizations, all to be offered through partners. Other packages will soon be released to cover document management, analytics, collaboration and customer relationship management applications, Cerutti said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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