Is the Virtual Desktop the New Normal in the Cloud?

Arthur Cole

At this point in time, it should be clear that desktop virtualization will not be the catalyst that leads the data center into a new computing era. Nevertheless, the changes already under way in the broader data ecosystem are increasingly exposing the traditional desktop’s shortcomings in a mobile, cloudy universe, and it seems likely that the desktop will ultimately get caught up in the virtualization of the entire data infrastructure.

Whether it is on the private, public or hybrid cloud, just about everything in the data center is being shared these days, so why not the desktop? According to a recent survey by Alacritech, about 43 percent of organizations have already implemented VDI somewhere in their data environment or are planning to do so within the next year. Among the top reasons for deployment are simplified support and management, followed by improved data security and lower operating costs.

In many ways, it seems that the cloud itself is proving to be more amenable to virtual desktops than the traditional data center could ever hope to be. As users become accustomed to accessing apps and services over great distances, and are giving up their standard desktops in favor of mobile devices and tablets, the once-strict user performance requirements are falling by the wayside. In fact, this is part of the push behind Citrix’ new XenDesktop 7, which offers new features on the Windows Azure cloud like live session roaming, multi-device support and a rich media user interface. The idea is no longer to duplicate the traditional desktop on a virtual platform but to create an entirely new user experience more in tune with the modern, collaborative work environment.

Oracle seems to have hit on this notion as well. The company has released a new version of its Secure Global Desktop, which uses HTML5 instead of a dedicated VPN client to enable access to both cloud-hosted and on-premise applications from multiple devices nearly anywhere in the world. In this way, users will not only be able to access apps and data from the client of their choosing, but they can also pull from a range of operating environments, including Solaris, Windows, Linux and even legacy mainframe systems.

And it may just turn out that virtual desktops become not only desirable in the near future, but necessary. When it comes to disaster recovery, for example, it wouldn’t do much good to have platforms, applications, services and other enterprise elements backed up if users can’t log on to their desktops. As Desktone’s Danny Allan points out, new desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) platforms provide not only flexibility and scalability in normal times, but are tailor made for major outages because they maintain broad availability as long as the Internet itself isn’t down. As well, it allows organizations to maintain full desktop accessibility without having to build and maintain a fully redundant DR infrastructure.

It would be ironic if, after years of struggling to gain a foothold in the traditional data center, virtual desktops became the standard for the new service-based infrastructure of the future. Those of us who were born and bred in the desktop era may find that strange, but it is a new world out there for the up-and-coming workforce – one that is not afraid to sacrifice the comfortable and familiar for ease-of-use and, more importantly, increased productivity.

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