It's been a while since I have had a chance to speak with the folks from Virtual Computer. I've been tracking their NxTop desktop and user virtualization product since their first appearance on the scene (see The Launch of Virtual Computer, Inc. and Virtual Computer NxTop Beta for more information). It appears that many enhancements and improvements have been added to NxTop since my last chance to view the product in action.
What Virtual Computer has to say about version 2.0
NxTop 2.0 comes with a host of new management and security features designed to increase desktop IT productivity:
- Deployment of NxTop Center as a virtual appliance: Enables NxTop Center to operate in high-availability mode using Hyper-V’s automated failover and load-balancing features. In addition, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can now share a single hardware platform to manage multiple customers, making NxTop an ideal management platform to lower the cost of managing small and medium sized businesses.
- Staged virtual machine updates: Allows patching of a single shared image and patch delivery to one or more users or groups for testing. Upon testing completion, the patch can be delivered, with the click of a button, to all users.
- Multi-language support: Most large-enterprise customers have global operations. To aid in international rollouts, NxTop 2.0 now provides the ability to create virtual machines in a dozen popular languages including Spanish, French, German and Japanese.
- Automated profile migration: Upgrading to Windows 7 can present a major challenge to large organizations. For example, the target PC must be taken out of service and user files and personalization settings must be migrated, and end-users must be trained on new features before they can be productive. NxTop 2.0 simplifies this process with a new tool that can automatically migrate users from their current XP environment to a new virtualized environment based on XP, Windows 7 or both. When combined with NxTop’s existing automated deployment features for Windows 7, and ability to run both XP and Windows 7 side by side, moving a large group of users from XP to Windows 7 has never been easier.
- Hardware Compatibility Checker: Many of the Intel based laptops shipped in the last two to three years have shipped without Virtualization Technology (VT), a requirement for NxTop Engine. To help IT administrators quickly find compatible machines, NxTop 2.0 provides a tool that can analyze a user’s PC and verify that it will run NxTop Engine.
Components of NxTop
NxTop consists of two components:
- NxTop Center is a web-based management console that manages all instances of NxTop in use within your organization, NxTop master images, users, applications, policies and other management functions.
- NxTop Engine is a bare-metal, client-side hypervisor and remote management layer that creates a stateless environment for laptops and desktops.
Snapshot analysisAlthough NxTop works with a hypervisor, the company's primary focus has always been on the creation and enhancement of a very sophisticated management and deployment system. At one point, the company's own hypervisor was the primary tool in this area. Now, This system allows virtual clients, applications, data and personalization settings to all be independently maintained and delivered to physical desktops as needed. This is a deeper level of granularity than offered by competing technology from others such as Wanova, Citrix or VMware.
Although desktop security is an important side effect of what NxTop does, it isn't the primary focus of the product. Neocleus' NeoSpere may be more powerful in this arena.
That being said, Virtual Computer has not been able to create a level of industry awareness enjoyed by the biggest players. It has, however, generated a growing group of followers who have gotten value from version 1 of the product. Version 2 should allow Virtual Computer to take futher steps into the market.