A Clear View of Virtual Desktops

Arthur Cole

More and more enterprises are deploying virtual desktop platforms as hardware refresh cycles come due, leading some industry watchers to declare the technology is on the verge of going mainstream. However, critics contend that it could prove difficult for the technology to live up to all the promises some vendors are making.


Cincinnati Bell is the latest high-profile organization to go virtual. The company is rolling out an architecture that combines the VMware Infrastructure 3 and Sun Virtual Desktop Infrastructure platforms with a goal of converting 750 users, nearly one quarter of the work force, to virtual machines. VMware will provide the virtual machines, while the Sun Desktop Connector will deliver them to Sun Ray clients throughout the enterprise. In addition to cutting its own costs, Cincinnati Bell plans to lease out virtual desktops to business clients, turning the platform into a revenue-generator.


Desktop virtualization is more than just a convenient way to trim the capital budget, according to this article on Virtualization Review. It offers a number of operational benefits that can't be had on traditional PCs, such as the ability to use applications not available on a particular OS. It also makes it easier to demonstrate and test software to large numbers of users. The article also gives a good rundown on the three leading desktop virtualization contenders: Microsoft Virtual PC, Parallels Workstation and VMware Workstation.


Another major player in the market is thin client specialist Wyse Technology. The company recently added support for VMware's Virtual Desktop Manager 2 to its line of Windows XP Embedded systems, and has released new software that provides plug-and-play connectivity for USB devices such as printers, scanners and mobile devices.


There's no question that desktop virtualization brings many benefits to the enterprise. But InfoWorld blogger Bill Snyder cautions buyers to be wary of some of the claims being made, such as an end to malware and viruses. There's also a tendency to apply the same ROI calculations of server virtualization to the desktop, which is likely to lead to disappointment -- at least until desktop virtualization technology gains a little more maturity.


At this point, no one is arguing against virtual desktops. Companies that have deployed the technology are generally meeting with success. But they also are heading into this new realm with a clear idea of what "success" actually means.

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