A CIO article on 10/08/2010 by Kevin Fogarty sparked a Twitter debate this morning as to whether or not “VMware invented desktop virtualization” as claimed by VMware vice president of desktop products, Vittorio Viarengo. Andi Mann and Michael Keen both made the case that Citrix enabled desktop virtualization long before VMware. Keen tweeted, “Citrix ‘WinView’ circa 1993. VMW wasn't even a twinkle in Diane & Mendel's eye.”
Server Based Computing
The pre-XenDesktop Citrix Server Based Computing (SBC) products enable, similar to VDI, a hosted desktop solution by letting users view their desktops remotely using a special protocol. But unlike VDI, SBC is accomplished by sharing the operating system among multiple users. It is a completely different technology with entirely different ramifications than VDI which abstracts the desktop operating system from the underlying hardware.
Starting with WinFrame, the Citrix messaging of its SBC products has emphasized access and application delivery – not centralized/hosted desktops. I suspect the underlying reason was that Citrix didn’t want to poke its all important partner, Microsoft, which stressed the importance of utilizing local PC resources.
One of my previous companies was an early reseller of Citrix starting with the OS/2-based Citrix WinView product, and we ended up being named the Citrix Partner of the Year for 2000. I spent four years as a Microsoft MVP for Terminal Server and co-authored several books on Citrix/Terminal Server along with dozens of white papers and articles. All of my writing, selling and messaging was always focused on using Citrix to run complete desktops from server farms because that is the by far the best way to achieve a tangible ROI story. When I read an article years ago by Ron Oglesby (now at Unidesk) explaining VDI, I was jazzed because I believed that as the virtualization technology matured, it would finally engender mass adoption of the hosted desktop concept.
Did VMware Invent VDI?
Denis Guyadeen tweeted that IBM had mainframe terminal emulation decades ago, but VMware created desktop virtualization with VMware Workstation. Mike Sterling pointed out that Connectix beat VMware by two years when it introduced Virtual PC in 1997. I don’t consider either product, though, to be an example of VDI which is typically associated with server-hosted virtual desktops, not local.
VirtualBridges unabashedly claims that it invented VDI. And, while its solution was very basic, I think it probably was first. But as VirtualBridges acknowledges in its Web site, it wasn’t called VDI at the time.
The actual term “Virtual Desktop Infrastructure” appears to be uncontested as VMware’s. The story I’ve heard is that some of VMware’s customers began virtualizing desktop operating systems on their ESX hosts around 2005. By 2006, VMware had noticed the nascent trend and figured that it could be a huge opportunity. Someone at VMware coined the term “VDI”, and a new industry was born.