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VMware has set out to expand the definition of desktop virtualization with the acquisition of Wanova, a provider of what has been dubbed as intelligent desktop virtualization software.

Wanova makes a desktop virtualization offering, called Mirage, that splits Windows into multiple virtual layers. Mirage allows IT organizations to continue to run applications and user data locally, while the Windows base layer, driver library and department application layer is managed and run centrally.

Mirage is part of a class of desktop virtualization software that Intel has been promoting as an instance of intelligent desktop virtualization because this approach leverage the processing power of the client to do what it does best, while leveraging the server to centralize the management of the desktop environment.

The difference between VDI and intelligent desktop virtualization is that the latter is a Type 1 implementation of a hypervisor on the client, sometimes known as client-hosted virtualization. VDI, in contrast, hosts the desktop environment on top of a virtual machine on a server.

Type 1 hypervisors differ from Type 2 hypervisors that are currently more widely deployed on desktop PCs in that the Type 1 hypervisor is deployed on top of bare metal. In contrast, the Type 2 hypervisor is deployed on top of a native operating system, usually as part of an effort to allow, for example, and end user to run two operating systems on the same machine.

According to Raj Mallempati, VMware director of product marketing for end-user computing, VMware is acquiring Wanova to complement the company’s virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) product offerings, which run the desktop environment on a virtual VMware server. Mallempati says that while VDI is a good solution for static environment such as call centers, it clear that mobile computing systems will require a more flexible approach to desktop virtualization. Down the road Mallempati says that VMware intends to unify image management across diverse types of desktop virtualization offerings

The acquisition of Wanova comes at a time when Microsoft is gearing up to broaden its support for desktop virtualization the form of Windows 8, which will have more hooks into Microsoft Hyper-V virtual servers. At the same time, Citrix has been able to leverage its historic strength in terminal services to claim a significant share of the desktop virtualization market, which may only get stronger as the company continues to cooperate closely with Microsoft.

For the channel the rise of multiple forms of desktop virtualization creates opportunities and challenges. The challenge is that many customers are still relatively confused about the merits of various approaches to desktop virtualization. The opportunity is that desktop virtualization makes it possible to more cost-effectively deliver managed services to the desktop.

IT organizations are looking to cut management costs by almost any means possible. That has led many of them to invest in VDI as part of an effort to reduce costs. But in reality, many of them have found that the infrastructure upgrades needed to implement VDI beyond their means, resulting in projects that are perennially stuck in pilot stage. In addition, many end users have balked at the loss of control over their desktop environments that results from when IT organizations fail to provide support for levels of personalization within their VDI implementations.

The good news is that with one vendor offering a suite of desktop virtualization products and technologies it should become easier for partners of VMware to compare and contrast different use cases for desktop virtualization in a way that makes the most sense to customers.