I just had the opportunity to chat with Joseph Cohen, CTO, and Autumn Radtke, Director of Business Development, of Aqua Connect about the company's product, Aqua Connect Terminal Server. At this point, this product is the only access virtualization product for Apple's Mac OS X of which I'm aware. (I know. Now that I've written that, many more in this market segment will call, send Emails or appear at my door).
As Apple's Mac OS is increasingly seen in organization's datacenters, allowing people to access applications hosted in this environment to be accessed remotely while still offering the "user experience" that Mac users expect will become increasingly important as well.
What's access virtualization?
For those of you who haven't taken on the disagreeable task of keeping up with research from the Kusnetzky Group, here is an image of the KG model of virtualization technology. It's a tool used to better understand what's happening in this rapidly evolving market.
As mentioned in the post Sorting out the different layers of virtualization, access virtualization is made up of hardware and software technology that allows nearly any device to access any application without either having to know too much about the other. The application sees a device it’s used to working with. The device sees an application it knows how to display. In some cases, special purpose hardware is used on each side of the network connection to increase performance, allow many users to share a single client system or allow a single individual to see multiple displays.
Why should you care?
Mac OS X-based systems are finding there way into datacenters in certain vertical markets such as education/academic computing, governments and some financial markets. Organizations in many other areas use this platform for content creation. Being able to put the server into the organization's datacenter and project the user interface out to many different types of remote devices would help bring Mac OS X-based systems into a configuration that is familiar to administrators of mainframe, midrange, and industry standard systems running Windows, Linux or Unix.
It's clear from my discussion with Aqua Connect that this was no easy feat to virtualize Mac OS's user interface because Apple's architecture is based upon applications being able to directly access and update the screen buffer of the display device. Presenting a responsive graphical interface remotely on different types of devices clearly would impose technical challenges in the areas of synchronization.
Changes made in the buffer on the server would somehow have to be mirrored on the remote device with no perceptible delay or users would be unhappy. The strengths of this approach are that organizations would be able to reduce the costs of managing remote devices and potentially improve security of critical applications and data.
Although Mac OS is not a major component of many organization's datacenters, the addition of Aqua Connect's Terminal Server just might be an important factor in an organization's decision to adopt these systems when an application is best hosted in that environment.