VMware discloses "mental framework" of AirWatch integration

VMware plans to integrate AirWatch technology into a EUC environment where desktops and mobile devices can be managed from one platform.

After months of speculation, VMware released the first specifics on how it plans to integrate AirWatch into its end user computing product portfolio.

VMware will integrate AirWatch's mobility management features into an overall endpoint management platform that allows users to access data and applications from any device.

VMware plans to do this by finding integration points between Horizon desktop products including VMware View, Horizon desktop as a service and Horizon Mirage and AirWatch, its $1.54 billion acquisition from earlier this year.

The news follows the introduction of Horizon 6, VMware's new desktop virtualization platform with application remoting.

Putting all the pieces together with VMware's other major recent acquisition, Desktone, could make VMware formidable in the space compared to competitors, according to Oliver Bendig, CTO at Matrix42, a workspace management technology provider and AirWatch partner based in Germany.

"Mobility has such a strong influence on end user computing that AirWatch could play the most important role within VMware's umbrella for end user computing," Bendig said.

Ultimately, mobile and traditional desktop management will merge.
Eric Kleinmobile analyst, VDC Research

VMware now has both the ability to provide management through virtualization with Horizon and containerization with AirWatch, giving it a potent one-two punch other companies that specialize in just one or the other can't do, according to Eric Klein, mobile analyst with VDC Research, Inc. in Natick, Massachusetts.

"Both forms of management are probably preferable," Klein said.

The integration points include a unified application catalogue and self-service portal within VMware Horizon Workspace for desktops and mobile devices as well as a unified authorization and single sign-on capability. File storage and sharing will also be unified under AirWatch's Secure Content Locker, with users of Horizon Files (formerly Horizon Data) migrating to the AirWatch product.

"Customers really like to use [the Secure Content Locker] and it's clear this will be part of a much broader Horizon View story," Bendig said.

VMware didn’t reveal a hard timeline for when these integrations will take place but they will occur in phases with updates anticipated at VMworld 2014 in August, according to Kit Colbert, VMware's CTO for end user computing (EUC).

The company released the information now to give curious customers and industry watchers a "mental framework" for how the pieces will fit, Colbert said.

"We didn't want people to think this was some grand vision that's never going to get done," he said. "The answer is it's definitely going to be done, but we're still working on the timing internally."

AirWatch UI assimilates with VMware EUC

VMware was impressed with the user interface (UI) of AirWatch's products and saw an opportunity to combine that experience to manage desktops and mobile devices, according to Colbert.

"We have this powerful UI, why can't we extend that to be able to manage desktops just like we manage everything else?" he said, adding that VMware users can use VMware Unity Touch to render desktop applications for mobile use.

A stated goal for VMware is to meld desktop and mobile management by simplifying desktop management. Desktops are complex in part due to the nature of the Windows operating system, which creates an image management concern as opposed to actually managing data and applications.

To combat this, VMware will break up Windows into layers, separating the base Windows image from each application and breaking the applications out for more granular controls, as explained by Colbert.

"It's essentially giving that mobility kind of policy management to desktops," he said.

Layering capabilities are available today through third party software tools from companies including Liquidware Labs and Unidesk Corp. – both VMware partners.

VMware brings desktops and mobile together

VMware is counting on mobility and desktop computing merging, which may seem obvious, but may take several years to meaningfully be embraced by IT shops due to existing agreements with vendors that provide traditional desktop management and the longer refresh cycle for PCs, according to Klein.

"Ultimately, mobile and traditional desktop management will merge and some organizations will be early in migrating to these for the potential cost savings of utilizing one vendor," said Klein.

VMware also plans to extend AirWatch's reach around the globe. In the second half of this year, VMware will begin to leverage its worldwide channel to extend AirWatch's enterprise mobility management suite on to VMware's price list, according to Carl Eschenbach, VMware's president and chief operating officer, speaking on VMware's recent quarterly earnings call.

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