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New IBM Virtual Desktop First in Series of Integrated Solutions for Midmarket Businesses

By D.H. Kass

January 25, 2011

IBM Corp. yesterday offered a new virtual desktop solution that enables business users to access PCs from mobile devices such as tablets, netbooks, laptop computers and thin clients, a service the vendor said will lower costs and simplify IT management for midmarket clients.

The vendor’s Virtual Desktop for Smart Business marks its initial foray into the desktop virtualization market with a solution aimed specifically at the mid-sized businesses, a segment IBM has vigorously targeted in the past two years armed with new products, services and channel partner incentives.

Using IBM’s desktop virtualization technology, businesses can centrally host and manage Windows or Linux PCs either on their own infrastructure or through a private cloud environment. Cost reduction is accomplished by easier and faster deployment of applications and software updates, and fewer help desk calls, officials said.

IBM is aiming its virtualized desktop solution at businesses up to 1,000 employees in a wide variety of industries, including health care, retail, manufacturing and financial services. Usage-based pricing is set at $150 per user annually—which IBM said is 40 percent less than the competition--and requires a 12-month sign on, officials said.

“With mid-market customers, the back office is up for grabs,” said Andy Monshaw, IBM midmarket general manager, in an interview. “Most don’t have large IT staffs and the emergence of solutions providers coming to the table with on-premise, hosted and cloud solutions make it a huge opportunity,” he said.

IBM’s roster of midmarket-focused channel partners, which Monshaw said numbers some 5,500, will deliver the virtual desktop solution to end customers along with consulting, networking and infrastructure assistance.

Virtual desktop training and sales enablement tools are available online, IBM said.

“Virtual desktop is not a new thought, it’s been around for a while but the user experience is finally here—firing up the system and application feels real time all the way through to email on a plane,” Monshaw said. “The big thing is that the price point and user experience have changed.”

Solution incorporates Virtual Bridges’ Verde technology

IBM is supplying the middleware including Virtual Bridges Inc.’s Verde end-to-end desktop management solution that provides the interface to mobile devices.

According to a blog post from Jim Curtin, Virtual Bridges chief executive, the Verde technology in IBM’s virtual desktop solution enables integrated online, offline and branch virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), allowing users to access their desktops even without connectivity.

In addition, central management and reporting is accomplished through one console, and the system is self-configuring, self-updating, self-protecting, self-diagnosing and self-healing.

The IBM virtual desktop solution is offered as a pre-integrated, ready-to-go software package, available now in North America and much of Europe, officials said. Sales will be initiated in China, India, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand by the close of the first quarter, 2011, IBM said.

More integrated midmarket solutions on the horizon

Monshaw said that IBM’s virtual desktop solution opens the door to an additional 20-25 similar solutions and services aimed at the midmarket that reside in IBM’s pipeline.

“This is the first in a long line of integrated solutions we will have,” he said. “They’re set around integrating and simplifying third-party applications and content that IBM has brought to market in an enterprise setting,” he said.

IBM has had the virtual desktop solution in the field since late last year when 100 channel partners participated in an early adopter program from which the package drew favorable reviews.

"Many of our midsize clients lack the IT resources and time required to manage a traditional PC environment," said Steve Giondomenica, president, Chouinard & Myhre Inc., an IBM Premier solutions integrator based in Cotati, CA.

"IBM Virtual Desktop is an immediate, powerful and more secure solution that reduces complexity and cost -- the key adoption barriers in the industry," he said.

Monshaw said that the virtual desktop solution has attracted significant channel partner interest.

“The number of partners signed up has exceeded our expectation by hundreds,” he said.