The User State Virtualization Debate

Jeff Fisher, Vice President, Business Development

Microsoft’s recent focus on  User State Virtualization has caused a bit of a stir within the blogosphere.  For example, blogger Brian Madden argues that Microsoft “saying that roaming profiles + folder redirection + offline folder support = user virtualization is a bit of a stretch.”

For RES Software, it’s actually an important step for Microsoft to validate the need for a layer of Windows client management above and beyond the traditional set of desktop management tools.

The emerging hybrid desktop world had made those tools more and more out of touch. Today’s users are  interacting with multiple sessions or “screens.”  The primary screen for most users is still their local rich desktop, but more and more that’s being supplemented with some sort of virtual desktop, whether hosted in the data center on Terminal Services, or directly on a hypervisor, or on the client through type-1 or 2 hypervisors.  Add that to multiple models for application delivery that have emerged (i.e. application virtualization and streaming) and also cannot be effectively managed with the legacy product sets. The time for a new approach to desktop management is upon us.

There are three key steps in successfully migrating users to this new, multi-session world and to delivering on our ultimate promise of “Making the Desktop Dynamic.”

1.            Merge Multiple Screens

No one likes having to toggle back and forth all day long to get their work done.  This became evidently clear with the advent of seamless window technology by Citrix, which substantially boosted the growth of their XenApp product (MetaFrame at the time).  Now with technologies like HVD starting to become mainstream, we are seeing the opposite problem.  Situations where, despite the fact that the virtual desktop is the user’s primary screen, it makes more sense to run certain applications and services natively on the endpoint.  This normally requires users to toggle from their virtual desktop to their local session.

RES Software solves this problem with our patented reverse seamless technology that we’ve included in our flagship Workspace Manager product (formerly PowerFuse) for about 8 years. It’s now also available as a standalone solution called Virtual Desktop Extender (VDX).  VDX allows local applications to be seamlessly displayed with a virtual desktop session, completing the first step on the journey toward the dynamic desktop.

2.            Unify the Management of Desktop Resources

Once a user’s screens are merged, a new problem immediately unfolds — the user now has to contend with two (or more) sets of desktop resources.  Multiple start menus, divergent settings for duplicative apps, multiple sets of drive and printer mappings, and the list goes on.  Windows, of course, was never designed with the notion that end users would be running multiple sessions simultaneously.  So it’s clear that there is a need for a new layer that goes beyond the concept of a single user desktop that is monolithic and tightly coupled to a specific user profile.  We call this layer a “workspace” and for more than 10 years have been selling RES Workspace Manager, which creates, manages and secures these workspaces for end users.

3.            Automate Delivery Infrastructures

The final step on this journey toward the dynamic desktop is to automate all the different types of desktop and application delivery platforms already discussed.  Each system (Terminal Services, HVD, client hypervisor, application virtualization and streaming, etc.) has its own set of servers and management services, each with unique configuration and maintenance tasks.  In addition to unifying the experience for end users across multiple delivery models, wouldn’t it be nice if a desktop administrator could also automate and orchestrate the redundant tasks required to provision new users and keep these systems up and running?

RES Automation Manager (formerly Wisdom) supplements Workspace Manager with the ability not only to automate the daily tasks associated with running desktop and application delivery systems, but also to service rich endpoints through capabilities like OS patching, application deployment, etc.

Ultimately, we see tremendous opportunity in the USV space and are glad that our friends at Microsoft (and at are giving this market the attention it rightfully deserves.


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