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Where's Desktop Virtualization Headed?

The promise of desktop virtualization is compelling, but delivering it can be complicated


While the promise of desktop virtualization is compelling, delivering it can be somewhat complicated. The barriers to adoption differ slightly by audience. Technical decision makers, many of whom have worked with other such technologies in the server or storage area, view desktop virtualization as “core” technology for the future, but are often wary to adopt it on the desktop due to concerns of product/solution maturity. Yet desktop virtualization is a means to keep businesses lean and sharply focused.

With so much uncertainty in the global marketplace and enterprises scrutinizing IT budgets more than ever before, hardware and software purchases need to be as strategic as possible. Many of these companies have turned to virtualization to stretch IT dollars and lower their technology costs. Companies are already realizing the benefits of storage and server virtualization to dramatically reduce the amount of hardware, power, space and administration. Another emerging virtualization application is in the management of desktops. Desktop virtualization offers a tremendous cost advantage for enterprise IT.

Desktop Virtualization Today

In light of the fact that users are becoming more mobile, applications are becoming larger, the prospect of touching every desktop to install, configure, and update apps on end-user systems can be daunting. Users, on the other hand, increasingly demand that their PCs run as fast as possible, both online and offline while being ensured that their computing environment is secure.

Desktop virtualization aims to separate the workspace (an end user’s applications, data, and settings) from the architectural layers below it and enables new management & deployment choices for Enterprises. The benefits of desktop virtualization couldn’t be more compelling:

* Virtual desktop enabled deployment can reduce up to $2,800 (includes representation of approximately $1,200 in hardware/software costs) and elimination of most ongoing support costs [Gartner Total Cost of Ownership report - August 4, 2008].

* Extends PC life up to seven years * Added benefits of disaster recovery, security and agility * Desktop computing delivered anytime, anywhere and in a secure and controlled environment.

At RingCube, we’ve seen everything from Fortune 1000 firms to small- and medium-sized businesses in every vertical imaginable from banking/finance to call center providers, higher education and technology businesses thrive with desktop virtualization in terms of dramatic cost savings on managing desktops, centralized management for secure computing and supporting business continuity.

Barriers to Desktop Virtualization Adoption

While the promise of desktop virtualization is compelling, delivering it can be somewhat complicated. The barriers to adoption differ slightly by audience. Technical decision makers, many of whom have worked with other such technologies in the server or storage area, view desktop virtualization as “core” technology for the future, but are often wary to adopt it on the desktop due to concerns of product/solution maturity. Perceived complexity of management, provisioning, backup, and application support are key considerations for this audience, as are the security of applications, data, OS, and the target PC itself.

Savvy desktop operations managers are also concerned about OS and application licensing issues, which are often overlooked. Some solutions, including hosted virtual desktops, come with very large storage costs, which are required to maintain each user’s individual environment. Finally, some solutions are only truly available to users while they are online, which limits their use by the very mobile professionals that drive the requirement.

Business decision makers, on the other hand, use desktop TCO as the key driver around desktop virtualization. Many virtual desktop solutions have a significant upfront capital outlay, which is particularly true in the case of hosted virtualization approaches which require servers, storage and delivery mechanisms. It is often difficult to justify better TCO compared to “status-quo” desktop/laptop solutions, when faced with such a large upfront cost. Business leaders are reluctant to invest heavily in desktop virtualization prior to the resolution of cost, licensing, and technology maturation issues.

What to Look for in a Desktop Virtualization Solution

There are very cost effective desktop solutions available and when evaluating desktop virtualization solution, it is important that the solution provides users with a familiar desktop experience while increasing user productivity, lower desktop management costs and eliminate the performance and resource overhead of legacy virtualization technologies. It is also imperative that users have flexibility of where they can utilize their virtual desktop (i.e. at home, on the go, at a customer site, online, or offline).

When users begin their session in their virtual workspace, it should transform their PC into their personalized workspace and have full secure access to files, applications, settings just as if they were at their own PC. Applications that utilize rich multimedia, 3D graphics, and streaming audio/video should not suffer in the virtualized desktop environment.

Furthermore, the quality of the virtual desktop experience should neither be dependent on the available bandwidth, average latency, packet loss of its network connection nor should PC drivers, printers, and various peripherals no longer work once the desktop is virtualized.

Desktop virtualization should not only lower desktop management costs and increase control for IT administrators but deliver a high-performance desktop experience anytime, anywhere that increases the agility and productivity of the enterprise workforce.

The Future Promise of Desktop Virtualization

The future market for desktop virtualization suggests a compelling opportunity for virtualization vendors and cost conscious customers of virtualized desktop solutions. IDC predicts that desktop virtualization will amount to a $2 billion market by 2011. Gartner predicts that a target market of 660 million PCs will be virtualized in that same time period.

There are three things I predict for 2009:

1. There will continue to be uncertainty in the global marketplace. 2. Virtualization will continue to be in demand, particularly in the enterprise. 3. Successful organizations will deploy desktop virtualization solutions and reap the benefits of cost savings, increased business agility, centralized management, and secure computing for employees, partners, and customers.

I believe desktop virtualization is a means to keep businesses lean and sharply focused and there are no barriers to the types of businesses that can take advantage of this powerful, cost saving solution.

[This appeared originally here and is republished in full by kind permission of the author and of David Marshall, of VMBlog.com.]

More Stories By Pete Foley

Pete Foley is president and CEO of RingCube Technologies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science from Yale University.

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