Beyond Ubuntu, IBM considers other Virtual Desktop environments

With the economy squeezing IT budgets, IBM hopes that the recently unveiled Virtual Desktop solution for Ubuntu Linux will be followed by similar company announcements for other Linux distributions, an IBM official told BetaNews.

IBM is interested in participating in a whole series of Virtual Desktop announcements for running users' desktops on Linux servers, according to Inna Kuznetsova, cross-IBM Linux executive, in an interview with BetaNews Tuesday afternoon.

Ubuntu Linux distributor Canonical, IBM's most recently named Linux OS partner, chimed in on a Virtual Desktop announcement issued last week by IBM and Virtual Bridges.

The Linux server-based solution works with desktops running either Linux or just about any other desktop environment, including Microsoft Windows, Kuznetsova said.

"Our strategy, though, is to support at least two Linux distributors," according to Kuznetsova. IBM has been teaming for many years with Linux distributors Novell and Red Hat. "In these recessionary times, we're seeing a lot of [uptake] for the Virtual Desktop from enterprises who want to try out Linux, and from government organizations."

In the Lotus Notes-oriented solution announced last week, Linux desktops for thousands of users can be hosted on servers running Ubuntu Linux.

Outside of the cost of the Notes environment, users pay as little as $45 per client (or even less with volume discounts) for Virtual Bridges' Virtual Enterprise Remote Desktop Environment (VERDE) software, along with technical support fees for Virtual Bridges and Ubuntu. VERDE includes an integrated connection broker, KVM-based virtual management (VM) technology, and support for multimedia and local printing.

Ubuntu software is available free of charge, and Canonical's tech support fees can run as low as $10 per user, she said.

The Virtual Desktop solution also uses IBM's Collaboration Client Solutions (OCCS), client software which is based on Lotus Notes, Lotus applications, and Lotus Symphony, a new set of productivity tools for creating documents, presentations and spreadsheets built on the Open Document Format (ODF). Users can also try out OCCS free of charge.

Meanwhile, organizations can avoid the costs of Microsoft software licenses as well as any hardware upgrades that might be needed to support newer software releases from Microsoft, according to Kuznetsova.

What other solutions might become part of a Virtual Desktop series? Kuznetsova told BetaNews that she isn't able to say.

But in August, she observed, IBM unveiled a deal with Novell aimed at ISVs that sell solutions to SMBs. Under that agreement, the companies are providing a preconfigured version of Novell's SUSE Linux together with Lotus Foundations self-managing appliance servers and a Lotus Domino ISV toolkit for delivering applications to very small businesses.

Moreover, back in January of this year, Red Hat and Canonical both announced plans for first-time support for Lotus Symphony. Canonical also said at the time that it would support the entire OCCS.

In August of 2007, Novell had already announced intentions to support the entire OCCS through a single-click install process for its Linux enterprise server, to be delivered through Novell's value-added distributors (VADs).

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