EMC's Iomega division has come up with a striking new virtualisation technology that can "clone" a whole PC and its contents into a fully portable form.
Based on technology from VMware, Iomega's v.Clone makes a copy of a PC's whole environment, including operating system settings, applications and data, saving it all to an external hard disk. Plug this disk into another PC, and the cloned identity takes over that machine until unplugged, at which point all traces of data are deleted from the host.
Anyone using v.Clone will have a physical PC and a perfectly cloned copy of it to carry around with them as they please.
Apart from offering users portability and a sort backup copy of their PC in image form, the software can also automatically synch back with the original cloned PC when plugged into it. This applies not just to data, but all settings. Make a change to the cloned Windows environment, and this change can be synched back to the primary machine's registry as well.
Without virtualisation, such a procedure would be impossible due to the OS needing to load entirely different drivers to accommodate different underlying hardware on each system. However, the virtualised environment of v.Clone hides these differences from the OS of the secondary machine.
A few possible gotchas. The performance of the cloned PC will probably not be quite as good as on the original assuming similar hardware. The virtualisation comes with some overhead, although Iomega has insisted that this is small enough to allow a PC's virtual image to run even on netbooks.
Getting v.Clone also means buying it on an Iomega hard drive although in principle the system could be made to work on any hard drive if the license allowed. It's worth underlining that v.Clone is not a disaster recovery option as a working PC is needed to access it and the cloned machine can't be used to reinstate a crashed system in a direct way.
What about the security of the portable drive? According to Iomega, the cloned drive image is password protected, and the data itself can also be encrypted using the company's eGo encryption technology.
"Iomega's v.Clone technology represents the first time virtualisation has been made easy-to-use and extremely convenient for consumers and small offices," said Iomega's consumer and SMB president, Jonathan Huberman. "With v.Clone software, you can carry your PC in your pocket and access your files, email and applications on almost any computer anywhere, including netbooks."
Separately, Iomega has announced the iConnect Wireless Data Station, a novel way of connecting up to four storage devices to a network. The device itself comes without any of its own disk space, but has four USB connectors to plugging in external drives, which are then connected to a router either directly using Gigabit Ethernet, or wirelessly at up to 802.11n speeds.
The iConnect also comes with a built-in print server for up to two printers, media streaming, and allows data backup for Windows, Mac or Linux PCs.
More detailed information on v.Clone can be found on Iomega's website.