Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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11/19/2013
09:06 AM
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VMware + Desktone: A Game-Changer For VDI?

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.

 

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Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 9:46:39 AM
Just put it out of its misery already
I understand the abstract benefits of VDI -- no local data is good for security, and IT still struggles to stick a fork in legacy applications that need Windows.

However, it just seems like we're dragging an old, fat paradigm kicking and screaming into a new, lightweight mobile world -- and worse, paying handsomely for the privilege. VDI in a SaaS model makes somewhat more sense and is a bridge, I guess. But a bridge to where?
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 9:54:44 AM
VDI, if not now, when?
Andy, I've been been hearing about VDI for so long, I'm still feeling pretty jaded in the belief that it is finally poised to make a mark, But your column and also a comment by Jim O'Reilly (about how flash and SSD are making VDI more enterprise ready) is making me wonder if we have reached a tipping point.

What are some things organizations should be looking at today when they consider the VDI option? 
Jamescon
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Jamescon,
User Rank: Moderator
11/19/2013 | 10:33:22 AM
Re: VDI, if not now, when?
Given the falloff in PC sales, particularly over the past year, I wonder if we are heading into an era where organizations are content to milk their existing PCs for just a couple more years -- which is made possible for less local processing with the web-enablement of more apps -- until they are written off or they run into hardware failures. Then the company can replace them with mobile devices connected via VDI. Could the VDI wave be just a year or two away?
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 10:38:02 AM
Re: VDI, if not now, when?
That's a great point, Jim. I've never worked for a company that migrated users off client devices based on the latest, greatest, newest technologies available. So if VDI is truly ready for prime time, maybe the time will be when legacy Windows 7 laptops are going out of service. Not sure what that means for Window 8. But the jury is still out on that anyway.  

I will be interested in the experience of early adopters of VDI, however. If you are one, raise your hand and share!
Andrew Froehlich
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Andrew Froehlich,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2013 | 3:38:46 PM
Re: Just put it out of its misery already
"it just seems like we're dragging an old, fat paradigm kicking and screaming into a new, lightweight mobile world"

I see your point @Lorna. But I've seen plenty of companies that are too deep into the desktop OS platform to make the transition to mobile apps. I see VDI as a bridge between old and new and it will be useful for many.
Andrew Froehlich
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Andrew Froehlich,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2013 | 3:40:39 PM
Re: VDI, if not now, when?
@Marilyn - Great question. There are several things businesses need to address when looking at VDI. One is coming up with a data retention plan for all files that will be stored in the cloud. Let users know how long their data will be available before it's discarded. Another key topic is network redundancy. Since VDI relies so heavily on connectivity to the cloud, a robust and fully redundant network needs to be established and regularly tested.
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
11/19/2013 | 5:36:26 PM
Amazon Workspaces also a potential game-changer
It always sounds good, but once you're nside a VDI implementation, there's nothing but tradeoffs. And if your tradeoffs don't go over well with end users, somebody will get the blame. With Desktone, VMware can offer more a cloud-based VDI implementation, which may be easier than previous attempts. If it is, that means Amazon may have something going with Amazon Workspaces, virtualized desktops announced at ReInvent. One trade off is how much do you allow individualization versus standard desktops? A single golden image is easier to store than thousands of individual desktops. Amazon execs say they build the cheapest operating infrastructure. Therefore, they can afford to store each individual desktop, with its customizations. Can VMware match that? What latencies implicity when your desktop is somewhere in the Amazon cloud? Can't VMware beat Amazon on that point?
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 11:33:07 AM
Re: Amazon Workspaces also a potential game-changer
cbabcock, I think VDI and Amazon workspaces may both be the wave of the future but for different environments and purposes. VDI has faced a lot of challenges, but as performance improves and users get more used to the cloud model, I do think more companies will embrace it. And these will be firms like financial institutions that need to ensure extreme security. I think we're a long way off from a company whose daily business is sensitive data using something like Amazon Workspaces.
ITconnecter
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ITconnecter,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2013 | 10:45:36 AM
agile companies and DaaS?
Just spoke with a CISO of a mid-sized (2000+ people) of a newer company.  How they got so big so fast (within past few years) is by being nimble.  They pursue contracts and grow/shrink based upon the business opportunities they have.  This business, in a heavily regulated financial services industry, is using the "movie-production" paradigm and is increasingly successful because of it.

The concept of on-prem VDI is not long for this world, I don't think.  The fact we are going back to zero-clients and centralized computing is not like going back to mainframe days.  Why?  Because today's mainframe is the cloud and the cloud is increasingly being offered by "utilities" such as Amazon.  While some might say that utilities are no great shakes in providing customer service, my take is that technology has allowed centralized models to be incredibly responsive and customer service-oriented.

So, traditional PCs, on-prem VDI or DaaS?  Given the rapid evolution of end-devices (tablets, smartphones), the emergence of open-source SW (LibreOffice, OpenOffice, gmail, etc.), and the cloud, DaaS is the best way to take advantage of multiple choices, dynamically and "as needed."
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