Desktop virtualization enables a single central machine to generate several virtual computers, each assigned to a different user. Those computers include all components available in any desktop computer including OS, data and varied applications.
But really, what is the value-add, and why should you care? Read on to find out how Desktop Virtualization could improve your business efficiency, while radically bringing down costs. We walk you through several possible models for your company, and give you some recommendations for implementing them.
The value proposition
For some enterprises today, the next logical step is desktop virtualization. It’s a practice that has been around for some time, particularly in association with terminal services. However, it has not gained the anticipated traction. There are many factors that have deterred adoption including limited understanding of its value proposition. Whereas the ROI of server virtualization is clear-cut and measurable, the value proposition of desktop virtualization is less tangible.
Desktop virtualization can best be defined as server-based computing that uses thin clients or remote connection software on fat clients. It presents a remote desktop to the user from the remote server. It enables centralized management of desktops, allowing for thin clients to be distributed from a centralized datacenter.
Thus desktop virtualization greatly reduces the need for PC refreshes. The PC refresh savings is perhaps the hardest ROI that can be measured. The benefits of centralized management, disaster recovery and back up continuity provide additional value.
Also, as the workforce becomes more diverse and distributed, and represents a combination of deskbound, mobile and remote workers, contractors and full-time employees all spread over multiple geographically dispersed locations, the need to centralize desktop management and reduce the cost of PCs, laptops and other devices, becomes much more critical. At the same time, the need to ensure different levels of security for each of these types of workers becomes increasingly important as well.
- Access to desktop from any location through any device. For example: mobiles, handheld devices or Thin Clients.
- Provides more with less, several virtual desktop instances can be created using a single desktop or from a datacenter.
- Greater flexibility with limited infrastructure.
- Reduction of infrastructure cost in sectors like IT.
- Hassle free management.
- Scaling up and scaling down of resources is much easier.
As server virtualization further penetrates the enterprise space, many businesses will look to virtualize their desktops. It can help significantly to reduce and even eliminate the cost of maintaining and managing physical local desktops. The total cost of desktop virtualization along with the centralized management of desktops, makes a much more compelling value proposition than maintaining a large number of desktops.
Even if IT budgets are constrained, it’s important to lay out a holistic strategy in advance, including IT and communications projects, to understand what future IT budget and resources will be needed, how projects will be prioritized and which vendors and partners can deliver the best value proposition in view of the overall enterprise needs.
Some desktop virtualization models
- Server in a remote location (For example: data center) hosts the virtual instances of desktop. Also referred to as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).
- End users gain access to their virtual desktops via connection brokers in the network.
- Provides Hardware-independence and enables centralized management.
- (Eg) Sychron, Virtual Bridges
- The end user (client) machine hosts the virtual desktop.
- A virtual machine manager called the hypervisor is installed to manage the different operating environments hosted on a single machine.
- Runs locally on the client desktop. End-users control and manage the virtual desktops.
- (Eg) Citrix, Oracle
Outsourced Subscription Service
- Service Providers generate virtual instances of desktops, by using different techniques like server-hosting, online services.
- Virtual desktops are offered as a subscription service to the end user on payment.
- Management issues are handled by the service provider.
- (Eg) Desktone, BlueFire.
Recommendations for enterprises
1) Enterprises must develop holistic IT and communications strategies: It’s no longer feasible to start different projects at different times without proper coordination as these projects will have to co-exist and will inevitably impact one another. Even if IT budgets are constrained, it’s important to lay out a holistic strategy in advance, including IT and communications projects, to understand what future IT budget and resources will be needed, how projects will be prioritized and which vendors and partners can deliver the best value proposition in view of the overall enterprise needs.
2) Desktop virtualization is not ‘one size fits all’: It’s important to identify which employees are fit for desktop virtualization. Most organizations will not need desktop virtualization company-wide. It’s not necessary, for example, to have a multimodal virtualization license for someone who only has a desktop PC. Therefore it’s important to identify those employees who will be a good fit and properly allocate resources to deploy virtualization for those that would benefit from it most.
3) Work with vendors and partners who understand the future: IT and communications are merging and becoming increasingly inter-related and inter-dependent. Ensure your channel partner has the necessary skill set to help your organization identify the most appropriate strategies that fit your specific needs. Demand assistance prior, during and after implementation, including consultations, pilots, training and ongoing support to ensure that virtualization is properly implemented and delivers maximum value to your business in the long run.
As an emerging technology, desktop virtualization has still not been commercialized to the extent it can possibly penetrate. Unlike server virtualization, this technology is still new to the market and adoption is taking place at a slow but steady pace. Mainly developed to the IT sector, virtual desktops have been progressing into non-IT sectors like education, healthcare, banking, IT operations of production and manufacturing companies.
All this indicates that the application scope for virtual desktop solution is extremely high and there are many untapped market segments that could find virtualization useful. Vendors need to shift focus to other diverse fields and invest their efforts into identifying potential application scenarios where they could apply their existing portfolio of technologies.
Juan Gonzalez is team leader and analyst at Frost and Sullivan and a member of the Neashore Americas Power 50 Ranking.