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Provision Networks, a division of Quest Software, is jumping into desktop virtualization this week with its Virtual Access Suite, a desktop virtualization system that supports Microsoft's Hyper-V.
That makes Provision Networks the first vendor to make Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor the focus of its desktop virtualization efforts. Hyper-V is available in beta form at the Microsoft Web site and will soon to be part of Windows Server 2008.
Provision Networks is emerging as another company that is a close partner of Microsoft when it comes to desktop virtualization. Provision's Virtual Access Suite is integrated with Microsoft Active Directory, a key component if you want to provision hundreds or thousands of employees with their own desktop in a way that meshes with the enterprise infrastructure.
Provision has also been able to add extensions to Microsoft's Terminal Services protocol that speeds it up, a necessary step for delivering a desktop user experience via virtual machine that resembles that of physical desktops. And Provision's Virtual Access Suite will also help its virtual desktops to be managed through Microsoft System Center's Virtual Machine Manager, the addition to the Windows environment management console for managing virtual machines alongside physical ones.
Some of this sounds a lot like offerings from Citrix Systems, also a close Microsoft partner and soon to be the supplier of XenDesktop now that it owns XenSource. Citrix will launch XenDesktop May 20 at its upcoming Citrix Synergy event. Citrix talks about managing virtual machines based on VMware's ESX hypervisor and the Xen hypervisor. But both XenSource and Microsoft support Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk file format. That means at some point Citirix is likely to be able to supply Hyper-V support as well, and Provision Networks and Citrix will be head-to-head competitors for Hyper-V users.
Citrix claims competitive advantage through the performance of its proprietary ICA protocol, supported in Windows Server 2008. Provision Networks has done its own engineering by extending Windows Terminal Services, said Paul Ghostine, general manager of Quest's Provision Networks division. "We've worked very hard to extend its features to make it richer in function and performance," Ghostine said in an interview, talking about Provision's version of Terminal Services. "There's a big debate which is better, ICA or Provision's extensions to Terminal Services. ICA is not better than Provision's extensions."
Ghostine claimed that adopting the Provision Networks approach could "future proof" enterprise desktops by guaranteeing performance while allowing them to continue to run in VMs under Windows XP, which he doesn't expect to see supported beyond April 2009. "Microsoft has already extended the deadline once. I don't think it's going to work that way again," he said.
His firm's Virtual Access Suite supplies a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for the major hypervisors, Xen as well as Hyper-V. A VDI controls user access to the virtualization system, supplies the rapid provisioning of a VM after a user's identity has been verified, and manages the streaming of application services to the user's desktop from a central server.
Ghostine cited one customer who was equipping 5,500 users with Provision Networks' virtual desktops, ROC West-Brabant, an educational institution in the Netherlands.
Microsoft's director of virtualization products, Dai Vu, said Microsoft was pleased that Provision Networks "has extended its VDI solution framework to support Hyper-V." Virtual Access Suite will provide "complete life-cycle management [of virtual machines] and desktop delivery that improves management and saves resources," he said in a statement.
Provision Networks is a former independent supplier of virtualization technology. It was acquired by Quest Software last November.
"We expect the adoption of Hyper-V to be brisk and broad," noted Ghostine. Virtualization products from VMware, Parallels, Virtual Iron and Microsoft are supported by Provision Networks, he said.