Desktop virtualisation specialist ClearCube Technology has announced an update for its central management suite that adds improved virtualisation support and better scalability. Company marketing VP Tom Josefy also hinted that one of the missing pieces from desktop virtualisation, namely 3D graphics, is close at hand.

ClearCube Sentral version 5.5 manages virtualised PC desktops and delivers PC desktops to end users, whether they reside in virtual or physical machines, all from a central console.

Josefy said that providing sufficient end-user performance was one of the goals, as well as delivering corporate users with the right amount of computing power needed to do their jobs effectively.

Features and benefits

New features include:

  • Virtualisation support -- in addition to support for VMware ESX3 Server and VMware Server, Sentral v5.5’s virtual abstraction layer can scale for future virtualisation deployments with other technologies such as those provided by Microsoft and XenSource, according to the company. In particular, Sentral v5.5 now includes direct interaction with VMware’s ESX3 APIs to control virtual machines from a single location. Control includes power on, power off, hibernate, pause and cold start. "There's no need for agents on the hypervisor," said Josefy, although he said that Microsoft Virtual Server still required the installation of an agent to communicate with the management console. "We'll be incorporating a new virtualisation abstraction layer so the user won't need to know what the machine is running on," he said. "We're focused on virtualisation now."

  • Scalability -- Sentral v5.5 now offers support for Active Directory environments with over 100,000 users, said the company, and for very large mixed physical and virtual installations (thousands of machines and virtual machines).

  • Improved usability -- the management software includes new tools including setup and configuration wizards, a set of workflows for common management tasks, described by ClearCube as "more intuitive," and integration of previously separate test utilities into a single console diagnostic function.

  • Support for Microsoft Vista -- Sentral v5.5 is now claimed to support Vista on both virtual and physical machines.

  • More languages -- the system now supports Spanish, Japanese, German and French.

      The software is designed to manage the delivery of virtualised desktops across available resources according to policies set by the organisation. So power users -- designated as such in the Active Directory tree -- might get a whole machine to themselves, for example, while knowledge workers might share a single blade with nine other users.

      The company reckoned that its research showed that, just as server virtualisation is already saving organisations money via consolidation, the deployment of virtual desktops across the enterprise from centralised virtual machines located in the data centre can do the same.

      “When adopting virtualisation technology, organisations want to effectively utilise all their enterprise computing assets,” said company chief Bruce Cohen. “With the release of Sentral v5.5, ClearCube is incorporating virtual desktop management alongside VMware’s enterprise virtualisation capabilities to deliver a comprehensive solution that ensures end-users always have the computing power required to conduct their jobs. ClearCube’s approach to virtualisation extracts maximum value from desktop IT investments, while enabling customers to capitalise on ClearCube’s proven centralised computing security advantages.”

      ClearCube Sentral v5.5 will be available in May 2007. Prices depend on the numbers of users and virtual machines.

      The company's blog on PC blade computing is here.

      Virtualisation and 3D graphics

      Josefy also hinted that the arrival of technology that will allow the display of 3D graphics inside virtual machines -- which will be essential if the company's claimed full support for Vista is to become reality -- is not far away. Running 3D graphics inside a VM has long been seen as a missing piece of the virtualisation puzzle -- although VMware's early attempts to achieve that have not been met with much enthusiasm.

      "There are some people working on that," said Josefy. "We're co-operating with at least two different organisations to do it, since people want to get Aero [Vista's 3D GUI] and we know we can do that without RDP [Microsoft's Terminal Service screen transmission protocol] as people are working on alternative transport mechanisms.

      "When Vista gets its legs and becomes popular, some of these technologies will be ready -- around the time of service pack 1 -- not very far off. It may be a new technology or RDP with extensions."