Blog Post

Is it the year of desktop virtualization yet?

Is it here yet?

For the last two, three, or maybe more years, pundits have said that the year of desktop virtualization is right around the corner. And each year, they were wrong.

Now, with news of Citrix’ purchase of Virtual Computer and the recent release of an improved VMware View, we’re bound to hear more such talk.

Virtual Computer’s NxTop client hypervisor competes with Citrix’ XenDesktop but overlap aside, Gartner analyst Chris Wolf said the deal brings Citrix a “lot of good IP around client hypervisor technology” that should accelerate the Citrix XenClient road map. (Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.)

But there’s still room for improvement. Citrix, Wolf added, must do a better job showing prospective users how XenClient can reduce endpoint management cost of ownership rather than create “additive operational costs,”– a common concern, Wolf said.

Desktop virtualization doesn’t come cheap

And therein lies the rub. People who expected desktop virtualization and VDI, one of the flavors of desktop virtualization, to save them money were disappointed. For one thing, desktop virtualization often requires server and storage upgrades on the back end. And software vendors soon let it be known that their licensing policies would change to ensure that they get paid for their software, regardless of where it ran.

But experts who really dug into the technology have said that the real value of desktop virtualization and VDI is that those technologies can provide more and better features as well as better manageability.

IT pros like to manage desktops and patch software from a central server, versus touching each PC. Some of that promise has been attained but often, if a user had a problem with his or her PC, IT ended up having to “blow away” applications and data in order to fix it. Tools like Unidesk, which eases the provisioning and profile management of Citrix or VMware VDI,  ease those headaches.  (Dell (s dell) now uses Unidesk to manage images, optimize storage and maintain personal settings of its VDI customers.)

So, the availability of  better tools will allow IT to centrally manage desktop images while also letting users download and run the applications they need could boost adoption. In addition, the booming BYOD movement, where workers bring their own computing devices to work, will further boost demand for centralized patching, updates and management.

Having said all that, will 2012 be the year of desktop virtualization?

Gartner’s Wolf isn’t saying that but he does see significant momentum — and significant room to grow.  “The market penetration is roughly 1.5 percent of the total enterprise desktop market. We expect that to grow to 8 percent to 10 percent penetration by 2015,” he said.

That may not be a tidal wave, but it’s something.

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10 Responses to “Is it the year of desktop virtualization yet?”

  1. VDI has a place but at 1.5% penetration after all these years of the hype – somewhat surprising. A blended approach is available and likely a more stable method to serve a diverse set of client devices and users. The critical thing is understanding the client device and connection to then be able to serve IT Resources in a device appropriate manner. As more organizations have reported, not many are adopting new Windows applications but nearly everyone is adding or migrating to web apps and hosted web apps.

  2. Barb – Yes, I’m with you on the fact that this story seems to replay itself every year with industry pundits, however we tend to agree with Chris Wolf’s findings of significant momentum this year. At Virtual Bridges we’re seeing a lot of interest because of BYOD initiatives, but also a lot of momentum around hybrid environments. While more and more companies are turning to Gmail, Dropbox and Salesforce, they’re also still running their standard client/server applications. Those companies are coming to us looking for ways to manage both SaaS and client-server applications, while reducing compatibility issues – desktop virtualization can do this. Also, it’s important to note that storage costs don’t have to be an issue. Of course there are some vendors that are owned by storage companies that will make storage a big, expensive headache, but there are very strong VDI offerings that can reduce the IOPS demand and also cut storage costs.

  3. Another driver of VDI right now is the XP to Windows 7 migration. Persona and Citrix’s profile virtualization is going to make the transition easier. I’d argue the cost isn’t that bad especially with stuff like Linked Clones, Host Based Read Caching and denser cheaper servers and memory. The cost generally makes the most sense if your replacing all of your desktops and the upgrade to 7 has a lot of shops looking at doing that and looking for ways to do it. (No one has done a desktop OS migration in 10 years so no one on the desktop team remembers doing it).

    • Again on the surface that seems great but it has to be the perfect use case. Protecting existing investment in decentralized storage and network redisgn required for the new data patterns along with the changes in computing, access and pain of migration is why organizations are not choosing VDI as much as I’d like. My tweeter handle is virtualizedgeek after all :)

      Barb, I feel the material for a new blog post. I hope you don’t beat me to it.

  4. I’m done waiting on VDI. Users don’t want it if given the option. Offline access is too slow in coming. I’ve played with Xenclient and it’s no where close to being ready for enterprise deployment.

    It’s a technology us virtualization geeks love but the business and users don’t want.

    • What do users not want about VDI? If you allocate and tier resources properly its faster and more steady than their 5 year old desktop. Offline Access to A virtual Desktop is available today with VMware View Local mode, Offline Application Access can be done with ThinApp and Offline Access to files is getting taken care of By Octopus (expect Sept. Release) or a good old fashioned share point server with WebDav cached access. I’ve got a couple Clients with it in Production and its honestly the Business driving it (Wanting to centralize data for security/DR reasons, Consistent desktop experience for everyone and easier to provision applications/updates etc, New Access models so everyone can connect from anywhere/anything). It doesn’t work for everyone, or every use case but for some verticals (medical/schools/call centers) its amazing.

      • To your point how does the above solution look for an enterprise with 80 sites 3 data centers and 30% mobile users? Only the most frugal of companies have 5 year old workstations (you’re not checking out a view workstation on a 5 year old machine) and as we know hardware is the least of cost in desktop management. VDI doesn’t save money it just moves where you spend it.

        VDI is the right solution for the right vertical or use case. We engineers love it for the management. The VDI argument I hear the most is BYOD. I’ll let my blog post on why VDI BYOD is a fail do the talking on that