The Mixed-Up World of Desktop Virtualization

Michael Vizard

Whenever an emerging technology attracts a lot of attention from the vendor community, a lot of patience is usually required while various standards and the overall market sort themselves out. But desktop virtualization has become a notable case where the vendor community is rapidly becoming its own worst enemy.

All the bickering and infighting over various desktop virtualization protocols and implementations only serves to slow down adoption. Right now, we have VMware pushing PC-over-IP, while Citrix pushes an expanded version of its terminal services protocol that it now calls FlexCast. In the meantime, Red Hat has decided to open source the desktop virtualization protocol, dubbed Simple Protocol for Indepedent Computing Environment (SPICE), that it acquired when it purchased Qumranet. And just to make things a little more interesting, NComputing and Wanova have proprietary protocols in play that both companies claim are dramatically better than anything being pushed by VMware and Citrix.

The funny thing about the vendor wrangling over desktop virtualization is that, at the moment, the most popular form of desktop virtualization beyond traditional desktop virtualization usually involves Citrix protocols being used to access a VMware virtual server. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Most IT organizations already have Citrix and VMware technology in place, so why bring in something new when what you have in place does an adequate job of deploying a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution in the first place.

Of course, the quality of the user experience still needs some work; hence all the infighting over a better class of desktop virtualization protocols that will provide a user experience that pretty much mirrors a traditional desktop deployment.

Naturally, a lot of this infighting would disappear if the vendors would agree to some basic standards in this area. Or perhaps a de facto standard might appear if Microsoft would get off its duff in this area. Understandably, Microsoft is dragging its feet when it comes to desktop virtualization because it would rather wait and see how many instances of Windows 7 will be sold in the enterprise before committing to an approach that essentially requires Microsoft to come up with some new licensing models for a major company cash cow.

At some point in 2010, however, vendors will have to put these childish games aside and do the mature thing by coming together around some standards for desktop virtualization. We can only hope they get on with it sooner rather than later.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 18, 2009 1:12 PM Jim Curtin Jim Curtin  says:
Mike, One of the reasons to bring in something new is that VMware and Citrix, separately, or in combination, are server-based hypervisors that are expensive and inefficient with respect to hardware and storage. Desktop virtualization offers the opportunity to transform desktop management. Just because someone is already there doesn't mean they are automatically the best for a new job. Check out VERDE VDI from venture-backed Virtual Bridges and IBM. It offers VDI plus Client-side hypervisor, in one management model, is built on KVM, has a great protocol that covers low bandwidth and multimedia (and will add SPICE) and it has the ability to scale down to a branch level seamlessly. In addition, for forward thinking shops, it also provides the ability to balance the desktop portfolio with anything from XP and Windows 7 to Linux and Cloud-based desktops. This are all good reasons for responsible organizations to look beyond just VMware and Citrix. And the cherry on top is that VERDE is 1/5 the cost of Vmware or Citrix from both an acquisition cost and a fully-loaded cost at $50 and $200 respectively. $200 per seat includes slice of server, storage and VD software. This rapid ROI is a compelling reason to look elsewhere. Jim Reply
Dec 23, 2009 1:12 AM Brad Smith Brad Smith  says:
Mike, interesting article. Don�t forget to consider the cultural challenges associated with implementing a Desktop Virtualization solution. For more about this. Reply
Apr 9, 2010 3:00 PM Jason Jason  says: in response to Jim Curtin
Thanks for the follow up comment Jim. I appreciate the added perspective. Reply

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