Is Windows 7 with XP on its back going to be your next corporate desktop? How about XP-in-a-can, delivered, somehow, to the device of your choice?

Joe Hernick, IT Director

May 4, 2009

4 Min Read

Is Windows 7 with XP on its back going to be your next corporate desktop? How about XP-in-a-can, delivered, somehow, to the device of your choice?So XPM keeps everyone happy; enterprises can keep on supporting legacy XP apps, hardware vendors can push customers to push the last non-virt-enabled chip sets out the back door, and Microsoft can put Vista on the back shelf next to Bob and ME. I was in Vegas for the Bob parade; I'm still wishing I could get those hours of my life back. But is Windows 7 plus XP really going to be the next corporate desktop? What about simply delivering XP to the device of your choice via VDI or some other wizardry?

Pondering the XPM play got me thinking about Virtual PC 2007, then took me down memory lane to older revs of Virtual PC, including my trusty copy of Virtual PC for Mac that let my dual G5 smoke XP at Pentium speeds. Once upon a time I was impressed with reliable CPU emulation and the novel concept of virtualization on comodity hardware. Then VMware came along and shook things up, followed by a host -pun intended- of competitors, with hosts running VMs at near bare metal speeds.

Somewhere along the way the underlying hardware kind of stopped being important; the concept of the term 'server' changed in the x86 world, with P2V conversions approaching transcendence... we moved beyond the physical.

I'm not saying virtualization is mystical - I'm saying it leads to a new view on the server condition. Let's call it a reformation. I'd wager that most folks would agree with if they take a few moments to reflect. No, not everything lends itself to being virtualized.


Yes, large scale P2Ving introduces its own problems to the enterprise management bag. But breaking those one-server-one-box chains is liberating whether you're thinking small shop consolidation efforts, huge enterprise clusters, puffy clouds or any freaky mix you can come up with. Once a physical server breaks its mortal coil it can be shuffled anywhere as a VM, right? So, if IT pros have begun to drink the cool-aid for server farms, where's that nifty desktop VM delivery penetration?

I've lived with old-school terminal services and CITRIX farms. In my experience, aside from the rare self-satisifed Kruschov-esque AppServer admin, thin-client sites rarely lead to happy users or IT pros. Efficient? You betcha. Low TCO? Probably. Flexible? Not really. Deployment working fine from day one serving a wide variety of user types? Please tell me if you have a success story out the gate. Anyone?

Now the desktop delivery cycle has swung back around to VDI. Again: server VMs, good. Desktop VMs on top of mainstream OSes seem to be going gangbusters in niche markets, too... Macs running Windows, Windows boxes running Linux and... other versions of Windows. There are a number of ways to get an XP screen in front of user eyeballs. VMware hopes you'll leverage your VI3 infrastructure to deliver client instances via VDI. Microsoft is pitching Hyper-V plus VDI, and CITRIX is more than willing to chat with anyone re: delivered desktops in the virtualized world. At this point, a couple mainframe and greenscreen holdouts are shaking fists in the air. Beefy back ends? Centralized storage for all user environments? Skinny endpoints? Deja vu?

Will it work this time around? I think it has a pretty good chance of broad scale success. I feel the 'XP is good enough' argument is pretty strong for many sites; I'm very interested to see how it all plays out in parallel -pun not intended- with upcoming versions of Windows server and client operating systems.

So how thin will the VDI clients go? I wrote about Pano Logic last year. They make a tiny, tiny client -no CPU, no memory, no OS- for VMware VDI installations. Pano claims the device only draws 3% of the power vs. a typical desktop, and requires zero client-side config. We'll see; demo gear is on its way to our Virtualization Test Lab. I want to see what a "zero client" feels like. And how it performs. Stay tuned.

If anyone out there has played with Pano, other VM-specific thin clients or any flavor of VDI we'd love to hear from you for a delivered desktop piece later this summer. Drop me a note at [email protected]

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About the Author(s)

Joe Hernick

IT Director

Joe Hernick is in his seventh year as director of academic technology at Suffield Academy, where he teaches, sits on the Academic Committee, provides faculty training and is a general proponent of information literacy. He was formerly the director of IT and computer studies chair at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, CT, and spent 10 years in the insurance industry as a director and program manager at CIGNA.

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