Market Update: Arrow Electronics Acquires Cross Telecom

Arthur Cole
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Desktop Virtualization and the Death of the PC

It may simply be a question of "when" not "if" a range of mobile computing devices displaces the PC.

Is the bloom coming off the virtual desktop rose?


That may seem an odd question considering many observers never really saw a bloom in the first place. Still, the narrative on desktop virtualization thus far seemed to suggest that it would do great things in the enterprise once it achieved the appropriate economies of scale.


But even that view has come under fire lately. Forrester just released a report claiming that most enterprises are leery of the business models being pitched for both VDI and PaaS. Chief among the worries is a lack of standardization that heightens the risk of having to undo VDI platforms if they fail to achieve compatibility with wider data architectures. Even open systems like VMware's Open Virtual Format are failing to turn the tide due to a perceived inability to adapt to changing desktop policies and procedures.


There's also the matter of cost. Few people seem willing to address it, but the fact is VDI simply has not demonstrated the cost-saving capability of its server and network cousins, says serverwatch.com's Paul Reubens. A quick scan of the leading vendors' websites shows a host of claimed benefits - everything from increased productivity to better security - but few are touting lower costs. At a time when most enterprises are under the gun to lower expenses, shelling out big dollars for a VDI platform with little or no ROI on the backend is a tough sell.


Yet, another potential stumbling block may be that the desktop itself is losing status as the information portal of choice for many workers, according to CRN's Kevin McLaughlin. As the age of smartphones and tablets dawns, HTML5 has emerged as a leading choice for application delivery. If the trend continues, delivering multiple copies of a desktop OS could be seen as downright quaint in a few short years.


Still, the vendor community has not given up on the virtual desktop just yet. Wanova just released the latest version of its Mirage system that virtualizes operating systems and drivers under a layered architecture. This allows managers to centralize workloads while reserving processing to the user device, improving flexibility and endpoint deployment by streamlining driver and change distribution. Again, though, at $200 per desktop, don't expect much of a break in per-user costs.



To be fair, countless technologies of the past emerged as "the next big thing" only to be run headlong into entrenched interests and economic reality. Some of these faded into obscurity, but others managed to work their way into prevailing infrastructure. The fact is desktop virtualization has already accumulated more than five million seats worldwide and is seen as an effective solution for low-level data workers where desktop personalization is not a major factor.


That's probably not enough to move the technology into a dominant position in the enterprise, but it provides momentum to keep the development wheels turning for a while longer.



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