No CIO is going to undertake a complex desktop virtualization infrastructure initiative just to equip mobile employees. But don't discount the possibilities here--a limited VDI deployment for workers who spend the most time outside the office, or who need special access, could get IT ready to move fast when vendors finally address some of the problems holding back the technology, including offline access and back-end stress on the data center.
Monical's Pizza, a chain of 63 restaurants based in Bradley, Ill., has deployed remote desktops on some systems but not company-wide, says Douglas Davis, information systems coordinator for the company. "We give remote Mac Home Folders to some of our users. This makes backing up easier, and if a system goes down, you simply replace it with a new machine and they're immediately up and running," Davis says. "It's the wave of the future."
We think a phased rollout like Monical's is the way to go. Mobility is the perpetual bane of IT. Security teams want data kept safe. Admins want device standardization and easy management. But employees demand access to e-mail, productivity, and other software tools from home, client sites, and hotels, on a range of hardware. And there's no stopping this wave.
IDC forecasts that the worldwide mobile worker population will pass the 1 billion mark this year and grow to nearly 1.2 billion people--more than a third of the world's workforce--by 2013. In 2008, the United States had the world's highest percentage of mobile workers, 72%, and it's expected to remain the most highly concentrated market, with 75% of the workforce--119.7 million workers--going mobile in 2013.
VDI provides valuable benefits to these road warriors and the IT pros who support them. Among those benefits: access to applications that can't leave the data center, such as software that hooks into a database of highly confidential or classified information, the contents of which can't be accessed offline for security reasons; an extension on the life span of legacy applications that aren't multiuser-enabled; a way to easily deploy applications that need operating systems other than Windows; and an end to the problem of a salesperson's laptop going south when she's 1,000 miles from headquarters and getting ready for a presentation--just check out a clean desktop image.
Download the InformationWeek Aug. 2010 Virtual Desktop supplement