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Iomega portable hard drives can store and sync virtual PC images with v.Clone

Iomega prepares to ship new software later this month for Iomega portable hard drives that allows users to synchronize and mount a virtual PC image on a secondary machine.

EMC Corp.'s small- to medium-sized business (SMB) and consumer storage subsidiary Iomega Corp. will begin shipping a new software utility for Microsoft Windows PCs this month called v.Clone, which will copy a virtual machine (VM) image onto an Iomega portable hard drive and then mount that machine image on a secondary computer.

The software was developed using IP from VMware Inc. as well as EMC's other products, though Iomega CEO Jonathan Huberman declined to specify which other products v.Clone was created from. But the concept is relatively similar to VMware's virtual servers and desktop -- a software-only image of a machine that can be booted on different hardware.

The main difference is between the v.Clone virtual PC image and those made with enterprise-level VMware ESX or VDI products is v.Clone's ability to keep files up to date while the primary PC is in use, and resynchronize any changes made to files while the virtual PC image is running on the secondary machine. "That's a very challenging thing to do," Huberman said. "There are other ways to do a virtual image, but incrementally changing the image is where our engineers spent many long hours getting it right."

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An Iomega drive containing the virtual image can be plugged into a secondary PC and will automatically launch and install an application providing access to the virtual image. This works with nearly any PC a user has access to install applications on (meaning shared public computers are usually out), although the initial version of v.Clone is for Windows machines only.

Once the secondary machine is running the application, users can either launch the virtual machine image to take over the secondary machine or browse files and applications on the virtual image through a window on the secondary machine. Individual files can be dragged and dropped from one machine to the other using the browsing option.

Iomega's suggested use cases for v.Clone include bare-metal disaster recovery for single consumer PCs, as well as a way to use ultra-portable netbooks while maintaining larger data storage capacity for data than those devices normally allow.

v.Clone has some features in common with a product for Macintosh computers called Parallels Desktop, now in version 5. That software lets users run Windows and Mac simultaneously, and drag and drop files between machines and operating systems. But Huberman said Iomega has beaten its hardware competitors to the punch by supporting the feature, even if only on Windows.

"We're providing something of significant value for free to differentiate our products from other top-tier direct-attached hard drive products," he said. "The question has been, why Iomega versus WD or Seagate? What we are bringing to the table is the best technology."

This is a great example of virtualization  being used in the new and next wave of life beyond consolidation.
Greg Schulz
senior analystStorageIO Group
So far the product has only been testing internally among EMC employees and won't become generally available until later this month as a downloadable application. Later this quarter, Huberman said, it will begin shipping built in to Iomega portable hard drives.

While he hasn't tested out the product, StorageIO senior analyst Greg Schulz said he's intrigued by the idea. "There is a great play here for ROBO [remote office/home office], SOHO [small office/home office], and consumers, not to mention other mobile workers," he said. "This is a great example of virtualization being used in the new and next wave of life beyond consolidation, where the focus is on enabling agility, flexibility, ease of management or productivity [rather than] driving up utilization."

In the PC-only market, Schulz also sees v.Clone as unique. "In terms of competitive products, short of some duct tape, super glue, creative scripting, portable or removable disk drives or SSDs or using NAS staging devices, this is a new and interesting approach," he said.

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