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VMware Continues Down the Desktop Path with Application Virtualization Purchase

Published by: InfoWorld
Written by: David Marshall

VMware announced that it is once again opening up its IPO purse strings to acquire yet another company. This time, the virtualization giant is extending its reach across the virtualization market by acquiring application virtualization technology with the purchase of San Francisco based Thinstall.

VMware said they are acquiring Thinstall in order to expand their desktop virtualization capabilities. Calling Thinstall the "best technological approach in the market for application virtualization," Jeff Jennings, vice president of desktop products and solutions at VMware added that "the addition of Thinstall to our desktop virtualization portfolio will help us to better deliver cost- effective and more flexible tools for quickly and securely provisioning desktops."

Looking at the current state of the virtualization market, it certainly wasn't a surprise to see VMware go out and buy an application virtualization company. After Microsoft purchased Softricity and then watching Citrix buy XenSource, what else was VMware to do? As its competitors continued to create their own "end-to-end" virtualization story, didn't the virtualization giant need a clear story of its own?

So what does this acquisition mean to the "infant" application virtualization market as a whole?

Natalie Lambert, Senior Analyst, Desktop Operations and Architecture for Forrester Research said that the acquisition further validates the application virtualization market, and that this technology, along with streaming, is the future of software deployments and how applications will be used. Lambert said, "Before this acquisition, VMware had a huge missing piece of the virtualization pie. Yesterday, they plugged that gap by entering the application virtualization space."

Trigence EVP and COO, John Hamilton, believes Microsoft's acquisition of Softricity also helped validate the application virtualization market. Hamilton went on to say, "VMware's acquisition of Thinstall was a logical step for their VDI offering. It not only acts as a further validation of application virtualization for the desktop but moves it into the realm of a commodity." As a competitor, Trigence claims to take the technology to a whole new level beyond that of Thinstall by addressing the complex environment of the data center rather than simply looking at the desktop.

It will be interesting to see what VMware does with this technology and how far they will take it. The company's focus has always been on their hypervisor technology along with additional add-on software to try and differentiate it from the competition. But with a renewed interest in the desktop and their VDI solution, perhaps application virtualization will prove to be the important ingredient that has been missing.

Andi Mann, Research Director for Enterprise Management Associates, said this was an excellent move by VMware – calling it a winning combination. Mann said, "They get a good (and relatively mature) technology, a quality customer base, and some interesting partners, that allows them to leverage their dominance in server virtualization into the application virtualization space."

Mann said the acquisition is particularly important because "EMA's research shows that 95% of all enterprises that have deployed virtualization have deployed two or more virtualization technologies together (e.g., desktop virtualization and server virtualization), and over 90% have deployed three or more virtualization technologies. Considering also the rapid commoditization of server virtualization, and this new ability to provide a heterogeneous, end-to-end set of virtualization technologies will be critical to VMware's ability to compete and grow its success."

The acquisition of Thinstall follows on the heels of VMware's September purchase of the virtualization orchestration firm, Dunes, and the purchase earlier this month of the virtualization consulting firm, Foedus. Like the other purchases, the terms of this acquisition were not disclosed. The deal is expected however to be completed sometime in the current fiscal quarter.

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