Now here's something you don't see every day: a technology vendor's marketing chief explaining situations in which its product is not what you need. It's a refreshing bit of honesty from Stephen Yeo, marketing director at desktop virtualization terminal manufacturer Igel.
Yeo points out that a desktop virtualization layer is simply another middleware layer if all you want is simple access to your business applications. Microsoft Office, for example, works just fine using Citrix or Microsoft Terminal Server session through a normal browser. Desktop virtualization is most useful for centralizing the PC infrastructure in the datacenter, but it will lead to increased hardware requirements on the server side.
Still, the key to a successful virtual desktop infrastructure is the management stack. Without centralized control, the quick proliferation of virtual PCs could wreak havoc on network performance.
Fortunately, there seems to be a healthy field of DV management systems to choose from. It certainly doesn't appear that VMware dominance in all things virtual is enough to scare off a number of scrappy start-ups.
One of the newcomers is Sychron, which recently added support for Terminal Server to its OnDemand Desktop management system for VMware ESX and Microsoft Virtual Server platforms. The OnDemand system allows enterprises to deliver a variety of virtual desktop configurations, from simple customer service modules to specialized system and security platforms aimed at high-value applications.
Other firms are looking into virtualization management as a service. Canada's Utility Company is about to launch the beta of a VMware-based desktop virtualization system using its ConnectedOffice remote management service. The company says that deploying virtualization as a service will actually extend the life of existing hardware because improvements to the virtual interface will increase capabilities without requiring physical upgrades.
And a California start-up called Kidaro is looking to avoid the kind of data complexity that arises when the number of virtual PC instances starts to creep up. The company's vDNA system acts as a self-cleaning agent that virtualizes personal data and settings on the desktop so the OS and applications can be managed centrally. This way, you always get a brand new environment, free from errors, bugs and other corruptions, while still maintaining your personal settings. It also simplifies management by providing a single cloned VM image, rather than thousands of unique PC configurations.
Desktop virtualization may prove to be the next big thing in the enterprise, but it pays to and keep it under control as much as possible.