The History of VDI

Update on 7/24/212. I received a comment herein included from Scott that dug a PR from 2006 where Citrix  introduced a desktop broker in 2006. I added a link to that PR in the timeline. You can see Scott’s message in the comments below.


One of the many perks of working at VMware is to work with some of the people who have written a (important) piece of computing history. We still have many of the original principal engineers from the early days of the company and few of them even wave at me when I run into them in the hallway 😉

In all seriousness, these guys walk on water when it comes to software innovation. I happen to manage the product that started it all, VMware Workstation which is now part of the enterprise desktop products and the other day I was talking with some of the original engineers and product managers in the team and we took a stroll down memory lane discussing the origin of the desktop virtualization market.

The History of VDI

I am using the original definition of VDI here, that is the ability to virtualize and run a number of Windows desktops (the whole thing) in the data center and access them via a remote client via a display protocol such as RDP or PCoIP.

2002-2004 – Early Customer Experimentation

The first people to implement a rudimentary version of VDI were actually our customers. A VM is a VM is a VM… and they were just running Desktop Workloads in the data center with point-to-point connection over RDP.

Here is a customer case form Prudential in the UK dated 2002 This was XP running on VMware ESX.

2005 – First Broker Prototype

Jerry Chen got wind of it and ask Puneet Chawla, one of our kick-ass engineers, to build a prototype for a connection broker which was demoed by Diane Greene at VMworld. We also ran a Lab for customers at the event. At the same event, Mark Benson from Propero demoed the Propero Connection Server (now View Connection Server).

Those were the first high profile demos of VDI.

2006 – The VDI Alliance

In April 2006, VMW launched the 1st VDI Alliances Program  which was joined by ~50 partners very quickly including Citrix.

The VDI term was born and launched into the marketplace.

Later that year a formal development team was formed under the leadership of Matt Eccleston and Jerry Chen and they were formally asked to build a VDI product.

2007 – VDM 1.0

Throughout 2006 and the early part of 2007, Puneet’s prototype made it into the field and end customers via the professional service organization. In 2007 the product organization took over the effort and turned it into a shipping product called VDM (Virtual Desktop manager 1.0). The VDI Market was born.

The Propero Acquisition

In April 2007 we bought Propero Software to beef up our brokering capability and started building the second release of VDM.

Few months later Citrix officially entered the virtualization market by acquiring XenSource.

At VMworld September 2007 we announced  VDI Broker product (VDM 2.0) and  Mark Benson (now a VMware employee) presented the first VDM Technical Architecture session.

2008 – VDM 2.0 and View 3.0

After launching a beta in September 2007, we followed it with the release of VDM 2.0 in January 2008.
This was still a market of one until until Citrix formally entered it later that year with the introduction of the first version of their Virtual Desktop product. We got competition. Competition is good for customers as we keep each other on our toes to deliver better and better products.

In December that year, we released the third version of the product and we changed the name of from VDM to View.

2009 – View 4.0 and PCoIP

In 2009 we released View 4.0 featuring the PCoIP protocol which delivered a much better end user experience than RDP.

2010 – View 4.5

At VMworld 2010, we released View 4.5 which was a cornerstone release for us and the market. View 4.5 featured some great new features but most importantly it delivered unprecedented ease of management which fostered bigger customer deployments. Most notably the biggest public virtual desktop reference on record to date: Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi.

View 4.5 also won the product of the year award form eWeek. It was great to be in the company of Apple iPad in the list of the top products for the year!!!

2011 – View 4.6 and iPad Client

Earlier this year we release a minor release of View as well as the PCoIP-Based iPad View Client that has been received extremely well by the market. It took us longer than we wanted for the reasons explained in this other post, but now the gate is open and we will be able to be much nimbler is responding to the demands of the very dynamic client market.

2011 is not over yet, so stay tuned for some great new things coming out of the Vmware View team!!!!


P.S. let me know if I missed any major milestones and I will update this post accordingly

24 thoughts on “The History of VDI

  1. I was part of the 2004 early adopters. If fact, even before a virtualized desktop, we stood up physical PCs, enabled RDP and brokered the connection via MSTSC published via Citrix Presentation Server. The data center manager soon had enough of the physical PC sprawl and we opted to virtualize XP on ESX 2.5 still keeping the same Citrix MSTSC broker.

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  3. Pingback: Die Geschichte von VDI at That's my View

  4. I’m pretty sure that Phil King over at EMC gave Prudential the idea. Also VDI marlet had kicked started slighly ealier than 2007. If my memory serves me right Leostream Connection Broker was about in 2006.

  5. In 2002, I visited Guardian, which was running hosted desktops on ESX Server because they had users (programmers) in India but due to compliance reasons the data had to reside in the US.

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  7. Hi Vittorio,

    One of VMware’s early VDI partners was Provision Networks’ Virtual Access Suite, now Quest Software’s vWorkspace. They released a commercial VDI product in 2006 using ESX as a hypervisor and partnered with VMware to get major customers for VDI like the US Army Centcom etc. We were one of VMware’s VDI solutions even before the acquisition of Propero.

    Up until about a year ago, and it may still be the case, Quest probably had more production VDI seats than Citrix and VMware put together but we don’t rate a mention. Then there are partners like Leostream that didn’t rate a mention either. Since Quest vWorkspace is listed as one of the 3 leaders in the desktop virtualization space by Gartner your omission is unusual.

    What you have presented as the history of VDI is at best inaccurate, incomplete and biased. It may very well be VMware’s view of VDI history but it conveniently leaves out a lot of real history. Maybe you should do a bit more research and try again.


    Rick Mack

    • Can you send me pointer to the relevant press releases so that I can update the post. I did a lot of research on this topic but missed Quest. In terms of market share or install base, can you please provide or point me at third party data? The data I have is share here on this blog. Thanks – Vittorio

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  10. Do you really believe VMware started the VDI market?? Are we forgetting WinFrame/MetaFrame/Presentation Server/XenApp Published Desktops Citrix has been going for over a decade? Even the Citrix Desktop Server 1.0 broker was released in April 2007 as a shipping product, where VDM was not until the end of the year. You should also update your article,, because your timeline is incorrect.

    I love the competition but lets be humble and honest. Every analyst will say Citrix started and continues to lead VDI/SBC, and VMware started and leads Server/Data Center Virtualization.

    • You are right about SBC and I am smart enough not to claim that. But you are wrong about VDI as in running a whole desktop in the data-center. When VMware launched, Citrix did NOT even have an hypervisor and they had to go and buy one to catch up.
      Thanks for your comment
      – Vittorio

      • Thanks for the quick response Vittorio!

        I like where you are taking VMware’s EUC unit but I still have to disagree here. Citrix not having a hypervisor has nothing to do with what we are talking about here. Many customers ran Windows XP virtual desktops using Citrix Desktop Server 1.0 on ESX 2.x. Along with the many customers running virtual Presentation Server 3.0/4.0 published desktops on ESX. Yes ESX brought x86 virtualization to the masses and is a leader in the space but Citrix was still the first to bring desktop virtualization. When Citrix bought XenSource they released XenServer but Citrix Desktop Server 1.0 was shipping in April 2007,, prior to VMware offering a VDI solution. XenDesktop 2.0 was released in early 2008 with enhancements to Citrix Desktop Server 1.0 and with rebranding because of the XenSource acquisition.

        Keep up the good work and let the EUC wars continue : )

      • I would say the combination of VMware and Citrix has brought a complete shift for the better to End User Computing. I know Quest has been doing it too but the big names of Citrix and VMware have brought mainstream adoption to this shift…

      • From Scott Cochran

        Hi Vittorio,

        Just to clear a few things up I reached out to Citrix to verify my information was correct and it was not. Citrix Desktop Server 1.0 was not the first VDI broker released from Citrix. Citrix Desktop Broker was released in October 2006 as an add on solution to the Presentation Server 4 Suite. Desktop Broker provisioned and connected users to Windows virtual desktops running on VMware ESX, XenSource XenEnterprise, and Microsoft Virtual Server. On top of connecting users to virtual desktops, Citrix Desktop Broker supported brokering connections to Blade PC’s and shared published desktops through presentation server/terminal services. Please read this entire press release from 10/23/2006 and you will notice that Citrix was responsible for forming what was known as the Dynamic Desktop Initiative where VMware joined Citrix to provide the hypervisor for the FIRST true Virtual Desktop solution on the market, For more proof here is the Citrix Desktop Broker Administrator Guide from September 2006,'s%20Guide.pdf.

        Next, Citrix Desktop Server 1.0 was announced in April 2007 and released in June 2007. This was the second VDI solution released by Citrix but the first stand alone VDI product sold.

        XenDesktop was the third VDI product released from Citrix in May 2008, The naming came from the XenSource acquisition which allowed Citrix to rebrand their VDI Suite (smart marketing).

        On to VMware… In the past VMware had the Virtual Desktop Alliance where they partnered with other VDI solutions including Citrix Desktop Broker and Citrix Desktop Server to enable more sales of their hypervisor. When VMware saw the customer demand and other vendors like Citrix, Leostream, Provision Networks, and Properto making money from VDI on top of their hypervisor they acquired Properto to offer their own solution, VDM. VMware’s FIRST VDI product to market was VDM, which was released January 2008,

        Now that we have a correct timeline I hope you adjust your blog. There is no doubt that by VMware making the hypervisor mainstream it enabled Citrix and others to develop the VDI market. Although VMware helped in creating the market with the contribution of their hypervisor, they are definitely not the pioneers of VDI or desktop virtualization as we know it today. I hate when server virtualization guys say that terminal services or XenApp published desktops are not a form of VDI. “VDI” is a just a term like “Cloud”, not a solution. If I can provide 50,000 users a published XenApp desktop with all their applications, home drives, data, etc. from any device, anywhere in the world, how is that not a form of VDI? Especially when you can still provide the same benefits of single image management using Provisioning Services; the same benefits of virtualization by running virtual XenApp server; and the same benefits of the ICA protocol. The only difference is how you scale the architecture. VMware guys like to play semantics with the term VDI but in the real world customers still see that as “VDI”.

  11. I find your history lacking.

    At 2000 we wen’t live with the first production VDI environment which is known to me. It’s past 14 years so it’s long past the confidentiality clauses of that time so I might bring up a few words for it. Also the other member of the team got his university graduation papers for the setup, so the concept came to public domain at least though there. I did the actual technical design for the setup while the other member did his papers on changing the user experience though this kind of setup.

    Basically what I whipped up from the components available at that point:

    1. The workstations were run on VMWare Workstation on Windows. I think it was released on 1998 or 1999.
    2. Each one of the workstation were equiped with NetOp remote control host service which provided the desktop sharing, printer support and so fort
    3. Clients connected to Terminal Service which had been setup to autostart the NetOp guest program with autoconnect to corresponding NetOp host service
    4. Remote support for direct environment issues was done through the TS where the support could grab into the RDP session and provide real time support
    5. Server/workstation administration was done by connecting to RDP console instance which allowed manipulation of the “physical” VMWare Workstation instances.
    6. Desktop management and normal client support was then done with SMS as with any other desktop
    7. Extra devices for the end-user was portable laptop, GMS data card, VPN token and portable printer, thus enabling the end user to work from anywhere while still retaining all the data at the datacenter and having two-factor authentication for it.

    Later on I head it was discontinued as it became obsolete (2005-2007?). Only mention I can find for it from the Internet is a chapter in a year end report 🙂 One could contact the Tampere University of Technology and search for the virtopi papers from the library.

    Click to access Fsamlink.pdf

    Until someone provides earlier setup, I can claim that I invented VDI 🙂

  12. @HM You obviously missed the point of the article. Running VMware Workstation and RDP is not what was meant by VDI. By definition the article was discussing the invention of a true virtual desktop broker. There were thousand of VMware customers running virtual Windows 2000/XP VM’s and connecting via RDP, and even more customer back in the 90’s that used web portals to connect to physical desktops remotely via RDP. I work for Citrix, a big competitor to VMware, so I am not defending the author. I actually countered the timeline with a valid claim about when Citrix created the first virtual desktop broker and the author updated the article. Either way you had a cool setup but it was by no means the first of it’s kind…

  13. If we’re talking VDI from a historical perspective, we mustn’t neglect Unidesk. Unidesk works within View or XenDesktop and is the only solution that allows seamless scaling of VDI deployments while retaining a single, pristine gold image eliminating gold image sprawl. This allows for just one copy of Windows to patch and update as environments scale. More info below:

    ROI storage savings calculator:
    60 second video clips for app delivery, single images etc:
    Success stories:
    Unidesk resouces:

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