Alex Vasilevsky, CTO of Virtual Computer, posted a tweet proclaiming that a milestone in the development of NxTop the other day (see The Launch of Virtual Computer, Inc. for more information). Since I've known Alex for quite a number of years, I just had to know what he was doing. So, I tweeted back and asked to have a chat. We exchanged a few messages to confirm a time that would work for both of us. When the call finally occured, I had the pleasure of speaking both with Alex and one of Alex's colleagues, Doug Lane, Virtual Computer's Director of Product Management and Marketing.
Virtual Computer's NxTop is now in beta testing and appears to be living up to its early promise. NxTop is intended to allow industry standard desktop or laptop systems to become a virtual environment.
NxTop EngineNxTop makes it possible deploy a very small hypervisor and client management system, the NxTop Engine, on the physical hardware and then deploy workloads (an operating system, a series of applications, user data and user personalization data) as virtual machines. Although this might sound similar to work being done by VMware, Citrix and Neocleus, the key difference is the management system, NxTop Center, Virtual Computer has developed.
NxTop CenterNxTop Center is a management environment and repository that allows an organization to store operating systems, applications, user data and user personalization data separately. So, an organization only needs to maitain a single copy of operating systems and applications. When a PC is being provisioned, the appropriate operating system, applications, user data and personization data is selected from the repository and a virtual machine is created. This virtual machine is then deployed on the user's system. A user's PC can be provisioned with as many virtual machines as needed to help that person be productive.
Change made easyIf the operating system or one of the applications needs to be updated or changed, the IT administrator updates the master copy. Each of the users' systems would notice the change and would update themselves when convenient for the user.
Snapshot AnalysisAfter organizations have consolidated virtual servers to reduce the number of physical systems deployed in their datacenter, the next obvious place to look for improvements is the organization's client systems. There are several approaches to this that I've posted on in the past.
Some of these approaches are:
- consolidating all of the applications on local PC blades, blade servers or general purpose servers and then allow users to access their workloads using virtual access software
- consolidating some applications on servers by encapsulating them using virtual application software and then delivering those applications to a client system when needed
- encapsulating workloads into virtual client systems using virtual machine software and then running them locally, running them on local PC blades, running them on blade servers in the datacenter or running them on a large general purpose system in the datacenter. The final three of these also require the use of virtual access software.
Virtual Computer's NxTop clearly falls into the last category. Unlike some competitors that focus on the hypervisor and just assume a management system exists that would help the IT administrators manage the encapsulated worklads, Virtual Computer started with the management system and then built a small hypervisor/client management tool.
This approach appears likely to result in a very well managed, optimal environment.