A sunrise industry

A look at the two big themes for desktop virtualisation in the next 12 months.
  • Sean Walsh (Unknown Publication)
  • 31 March, 2010 23:00

Virtual desktop infrastructure started as a grass roots initiative around 2005, when VMware noticed its customers configuring desktop operating systems and applications as virtual machines on their ESX Hosts. Someone at the company recognised the opportunity, coined the term Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and with that an industry was born. Today, as CIOs look for ways to reduce expenditure without risking competitiveness, VDI is increasingly popular. With the cost of managing a virtualised PC environment typically 50 to 60 percent less than managing traditional desktops, VDI appeals to any organisation – from government bodies and large enterprises to small businesses.

In March 2009 Gartner predicted exponentially increasing VDI sales of US$65 billion by 2013, up from only US$1.4 billion in 2008. Furthermore, a February 2010 Citrix global survey looking at CIO investment plans found that virtualisation will dominate IT investment and savings by 2014. In addition, 31 percent of CIOs said that up to 5 percent of their current IT budget is dedicated to virtualisation technologies. It also found that CIOs recognise the benefits of using desktop virtualisation within their organisation.

In my opinion, 2010 will be a defining year for desktop virtualisation and there will be two big themes. The first is the move of hosted desktop virtualisation from smaller deployments to more broad use across the enterprise and the second is client virtualisation.

For the past few years there have been two different methodologies in hosted desktop virtualisation. The early deployments were based on the use of virtualisation technology simply to centralise a PC image in the datacentre and hence improve supportability for small groups of remote workers. This was fine for its use case, but was never going to be a model that changed client computing for the majority of users. Most users work in larger groups and this simple centralisation model does not deliver economic benefit in this more general case.

The other approach was the componentised model of client computing where the components of the desktop are managed independently and assembled on-demand for the user every time they logged on. The components of the desktop are the client OS (for example Win7), the application and the user environment (everything concerning the user, from personalisation settings to user-installed applications). I now see general acceptance that the componentised model is the way to go and a good understanding of the sorts of benefits we will see.

What will happen in 2010 is that the broad deployments currently in implementation will enter production and deliver independent, quantifiable benefits. This is important because, as with any new technology, it is only at this stage that it becomes easy for the majority of organisations to make decisions on future technologies. Through 2010 we will also see more organisations choosing to use desktop virtualisation as their strategy for client computing and the migration to Windows 7.

The second big theme for the year will be client virtualisation, specifically virtualisation of laptops. Client hypervisors from Citrix and VMware will ship and join those from Neocleus and Virtual Computer. These products support very different management models and the big debate of the year is going to be ‘how do we actually want to manage users on virtualised clients?’

One major factor impacting the success of both server and client hosted desktop virtualisation is the method by which the experience of the user is addressed. Regardless of how you deliver and manage the corporate desktop, any degradation to the working experience of the user will result in serious problems in the roll-out of that technology. By managing the “user personality” independent of the desktop, the user’s experience (and therefore the adoption of the desktop) can be ensured.

AppSense calls this “user virtualisation”, providing a consistent personal desktop experience from anywhere at any time. The ability to still have a fully personalised hosted desktop when not on the company network, even the ability to take your “personality” with you across geographic, OS, accessing device and contextual boundaries without it having to be tied to one monolithic desktop.

The key to success will be to preserve the essential features of componentisation, such as getting economies of scale across software components and delivery of the user environment in this more challenging platform. There are several techniques that are good candidates for this and we will see active debate throughout the year on their pros and cons. But this is certain to happen; business is going to hear a lot about VDI in 2010.

The author is vice president, AppSense, ANZ.