VMware promises better 3D graphics on virtualised desktops

The company also plans to let users run Windows Server 2008 R2 as a stand-alone desktop

VMware is hoping to persuade more enterprises to make the leap to virtual desktops by improving graphics capabilities and allowing them to circumvent Microsoft's licensing terms.

The company is this week hosting VMworld Europe in Barcelona and desktop virtualization is one of the big themes at the event. Along with its plan to take over the whole data center, including storage and networks, VMware has accelerated its desktop push. This week it acquired desktop-as-a-service company Desktone.

But its bread and butter is still the Horizon View platform, which will soon be upgraded to version 5.3, Pat Lee, director of product management, said in a blog post.

Running the most advanced 3D graphics applications has been the holy grail for desktop virtualization platforms and VMware is adding vDGA (virtual Dedicated Graphics Acceleration) to make that possible, according to Lee. The feature is based on VMware's DirectPath I/O and Nvidia's Grid technology, which together allow users to run their applications on a dedicated GPU.

In View 5.3, VMware has also added the ability to use Windows Server 2008 R2 as a stand-alone virtual desktop, in an effort to get around some of Microsoft's licensing terms when running a desktop in the data center or in the Cloud.

For example, desktop-as-a-service providers can't resell access to a client flavor of Windows, instead users have to bring their own licenses, which can be cumbersome.

"VMware of course doesn't make a practice of advising on the specific ins and outs of Microsoft Windows licensing. ... But with this addition, all Horizon View 5.3 customers, those with private cloud deployments and those consuming from a public or hybrid-cloud service provider, will have greater flexibility and choice in how a VDI deployment is properly licensed with our friends up in Redmond," Lee said.

Windows Server 2008 instances can be configured to "pretty much look and feel just like a Windows 7 desktop," according to Lee.

That addition may not sit well with Microsoft, but VMware has made some additions in version 5.3 that should make the company a little happier, including support for Windows 8.1-based desktops and multimedia redirection for video playback on Windows 7. For the latter to work, the client must have a GPU that can H.264 video. Formats such as Flash and Windows Media Video are being considered for future releases, according to the blog post.

There is a new client optimized for iOS 7 and better for performance when accessing a desktop via a browser, as well.

VMware is also tying together View 5.3 with its growing aspirations in the data center by bundling a VSAN (Virtual SAN) beta. The platform is used to create pools of capacity from a combination of hard drives and solid state storage that come with servers. The goal is to improve resiliency while at the same cut storage related costs.

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