A Push for VDI in 2010?


The momentum for desktop virtualization seems to be building, with many analysts expecting a major push by the vendor community in 2010.

The timing is certainly right for those who have vested a lot of development time and energy in virtualization platforms-that would be VMware, Microsoft and Citrix. Now that server virtualization has a firm hold on the enterprise and advanced cloud architectures are still largely in the formative stage, desktop virtualization infrastructure (VDI) is a nice filler to keep the production lines rolling.

However, there are still many who are raising caution flags, not that the technology is not viable, but that the expectations for VDI should not be quite the same as server or storage virtualization.

VDI was front and center at the recent Catalyst Conference put on by the Burton Group in San Diego. According to Citrix' Sumit Dhawan, the topic drew the most interest from attendees and analysts alike, with many hoping to get out from under increasingly burdensome hardware cycles and tap into more flexible management and upgrade programs. He reports that while earlier VDI architectures were cumbersome, newer generations allow for things like pool management using single OS and app instances, which helps cut down on storage requirements.

VMware, naturally, is keen on moving VDI into the mainstream, with expectations that this month's VMworld in San Francisco will be used to set the stage for a major campaign next year. Expect to hear about a new edition of the VMware View platform, plus plans for virtualization clients for smartphones and other mobile devices.

It's no surprise that the vendor community wants to put the best face on VDI, and there is every reason to believe the technology will provide a workable solution for many enterprises. But implementation will no doubt come with a unique set of challenges, and it's incumbent on early adopters to make sure they have a clear understanding of what VDI can and cannot do.

Adam Oliver, systems engineer at triCerat Inc., which specializes in print operations in complex environments, says VDI infrastructures can be less effective if managers fail to address issues like individual user setting and machine management, printer accessibility, security and overall system monitoring. Far from eliminating problems with physical machines, VDI will most like swap one set of challenges for another.

There are a number of persistent myths about VDI that need to be overcome if it is to find its way into the enterprise on a broad scale, according to Forrester's Natalie Lambert. Chief among them are the beliefs that a single platform will meet all your needs and that all of your ideal solutions can be legally implemented. Licensing fees and restrictions will quickly blow those expectations out of the water, but, if you're not careful, only after the platform has been deployed.

VDI has been on the cusp for so long now that it's easy to dismiss this latest push as simply another attempt at pushing a technology that has so far failed to make a case for itself. The problem with that theory is that by any measure, the traditional desktop infrastructure at most organizations is a major cost center, both in capex and opex.

If VDI can be shown to reduce those costs as dramatically as backers claim, it may prove too good to resist.