VMware has announced the general availability of ACE 2 Enterprise edition, an update for its locked-down virtual machine generator.

The product's base functionality remains the same - we reviewed it here. ACE enables IT desktop managers to create a standard PC environment including operating system, data and applications, wrap it with IT policies to protect the contents, package it into a virtual machine and deploy it to any managed or unmanaged licensed PC client. The product also includes Pocket ACE, which enables deployment of a desktop VM to a portable media device such as a USB flash drive, portable hard drive or Apple iPod. End users can then securely access their standard corporate desktop from nearly any other client machine, from home laptops to business centre PCs.

What's new is the addition of a management server, which allows IT administrators to centrally track and manage thousands of VMware ACE desktops and apply standard policies to them from a single console. It comes pre-installed, pre-configured and ready to deploy, said VMware. The product also allows IT administrators to use the recently-launched VMware Workstation 6 with the ACE Option Pack to create and package VMware ACE virtual machines for secure deployment to end users who then can run them on any licensed PC or laptop.

Other benefits include:

  • Streamlined enterprise desktop management: supporting users on unmanaged hardware can require IT administrators to create, test, provision and migrate a separate desktop image for every flavour of PC hardware being supported. Administrators now can create standard desktop images using VMware Workstation 6, then deploy and manage them with the ACE Management Server. This results in the ability to easily manage numerous virtual machines while reducing the number of images to create and enabling faster desktop deployments.

  • Simplified policy control: a single management interface provides centralised policy management of desktop virtual machines deployed on existing PCs. The management server supports dynamic updates of IT policies and manages virtual machine expiration dates, device and network access configurations and activation or deactivation of ACE clients, said the company.

  • Isolated environments: administrators can create secure and isolated ACE desktop environments for use on existing PCs that are separate from the user’s personal settings. According to VMware, this allows administrators to manage and control the ACE desktop while giving users freedom to use PC features that might be restricted within the VMware ACE environment.

  • Easy backup and recovery: administrators can take snapshots of stable virtual machine configurations and roll back to the previous state.

  • Simplified end-user experience: ACE 2 Enterprise edition uses ThinPrint’s .print technology, which means that you don't need to install hardware-specific printer drivers.

  • Expanded operating system support: In addition to support for Windows Vista, the new product offers host operating system support for Linux distros from Mandriva, Novell, Red Hat and Ubuntu.

  • Increased performance and memory support: the product uses the company's latest virtualisation technology to enable support for USB 2.0, and up to 8GB of memory per VM.

“VMware ACE 2 Enterprise edition is a value-add to IT organisations because it allows desktop administrators to accommodate the increasing number of workers who use personal computers for work-related purposes,” said enterprise desktop platforms director Jerry Chen. “By offering the ability to distribute managed and controlled ‘virtual laptops’ that can be deployed anywhere, VMware ACE enables administrators to avoid investments in new hardware while keeping pace with a workforce that is increasingly moving outside traditional managed IT environments.”

Pricing and availability

VMware ACE 2 Enterprise Edition is available for download from here. The product is available in Starter ($999), Standard ($4,999) and Enterprise ($15,999) versions, which include VMware Workstation 6 with the VMware ACE Option Pack, the VMware ACE 2 Management Server and up to 500 VMware ACE client licences with the VMware ACE 2 Enterprise Kit.