VMware's acquisition of Desktone may signal the technical capability, cost savings, and user acceptance necessary for desktop virtualization to break through in the enterprise.
Virtualization has taken enterprise IT by storm -- at least in the server world. Not so for VDI. The virtual desktop has had a far more difficult time gaining traction. That could be changing soon, as the recent acquisition by VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) of Desktone demonstrates.
Until recently, desktop virtualization has been essentially a niche product. One of its many barriers was delivering a quality desktop experience through local or wide area networks where virtualized graphical interfaces frequently skipped and stuttered across slow network links. The result: a major selling point -- the ability to recreate a "local desktop experience" -- fell short, except in organizations where ease of management outweighed end-user experience.
The virtual desktop also failed to be competitive on cost. In 2010, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) concluded that desktop virtualization was roughly 9 percent to 11 percent more expensive than a corresponding PC environment, an estimate that didn’t include the cost of a wired and wireless network infrastructure upgrade often necessary to support the extra load. Once IT departments started doing the math, desktop virtualization didn’t make sense.
Then there was the emotional component experienced by end-users who preferred to keep files and applications stored as close as possible to their fingertips. To them, "the cloud" presented an uncertainty built on a lack of understanding. The idea of storing and running all data, applications and even the operating system "up there" was something many people did not readily accept.
Despite these concerns, a handful of virtualization companies soldiered on. They include market leaders Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS) and VMware, along with niche players like Unidesk, MokaFive, and Desktone, which VMware recently acquired.
Desktone’s innovative desktop-as-a-service platform, for example, has received high praise for being able to deliver a virtualized desktop solution across WAN and Internet connections. The virtualization software now looks and feels like it’s being run locally. Product costs and licensing have driven implementation costs way down. And since network infrastructures in many companies have been replaced, businesses now have the throughput to handle the added load of virtualized desktops. Even end-users have come around to realize that the cloud is as safe, if not safer, than locally stored data.
There’s still a long road ahead before desktop virtualization becomes the norm. But for the first time, enterprises have the technical capabilities, cost savings, and user confidence that is necessary for the technology to move forward. Now that those three major obstacles are behind us, expect a slow, yet gradual move toward a cloud-operated desktop.
Server Market SplitsvilleJust because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.
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