VMware View 4: An improvement to View 3, but still a ways to go

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Earlier this week, VMware unveiled details of View 4, the latest version of its desktop virtualization product.

This seems like a pretty big deal, and while in many ways it is, View 4 also leaves a lot to be desired.

Back in 2008, VMware announced View 3 in October, and the product was released that December. View 3 has several major features and components, including the following:

  • View Composer single-image management
  • ThinApp application virtualization
  • Offline client mode (classified as “experimental” only)

Around the time of View 3’s release, VMware announced other desktop features it was working on, which included:

  • A client hypervisor (called “CVP”)
  • A software-based version of Teradici’s PC-over-IP remoting protocol (to replace Remote Desktop Protocol)

Then, this past September, VMware revealed a license agreement with RTO Software to bring its Profile Virtualization product into the View suite.

Considering that all of this stuff was discussed prior to View 4, a lot of people (myself included) were excited about Version 4 and assumed that it would have all these great new features.

But when VMware made the View 4 announcement on Monday, we were dismayed to see that only one (one!?!) of the six items mentioned above was updated for View 4. It includes a software-based version of Teradici’s PC-over-IP protocol. While this is very cool, it unfortunately means that the following changes were not made:

  • View Composer was not updated.
  • ThinApp was not updated.
  • Offline client mode is still “experimental.”
  • The client hypervisor is still not released.
  • The RTO Software-based profile-virtualization feature is not included.

In addition to PC-over-IP, the other new View 4 “feature” is support for vSphere 4, which is VMware’s underlying platform bundle built around ESX 4. I’m not sure whether support for a new platform counts as a feature. Sure, vSphere 4 has a lot of new features that are great for virtual desktop infrastructure, but many other VDI products can also run on vSphere (such as Citrix XenDesktop and Quest vWorkspace) so supporting it is not a competitive advantage.

I guess the one advantage VMware can offer around vSphere 4 is that it’s bundled in the highest-end edition of vSphere — called Enterprise Plus — which would ordinarily cost $3,500 per processor. And View licenses are fairly cheap, costing only $150 or $250 per concurrent user, depending which edition you buy. So the fact that customers get the Enterprise Plus version of vSphere is a nice incentive to use VMware for desktop virtualization.

View 4 is brand-new, so time will tell how widely this latest version is adopted. And while it might be disappointing that View 4 doesn’t have too many new features, it does mean that VMware has a lot of new desktop stuff to release in 2010.