Desktop Virtualization at the Gates


A lot of time, money and effort is going toward the development of desktop virtualization technology. The question is whether any of it will be enough to push the concept from the fringe into the mainstream of the enterprise industry.


The main focus seems to be on simplicity -- simplicity of deployment, simplicity of management and simplicity of use. It's not enough to simply offer a cheaper alternative to the standard workstation; there has to be an element of improved functionality as well.


To that end, companies like Symantec are hard at work re-imagining the way virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs) work. The new Symantec Endpoint Virtualization suite aims to create a "portable, on-demand workspace" that can function across virtually any hardware or software platform. The package is an amalgam of a number of recent Symantec acquisitions, such as AppStream and nSuite, that essentially separates the VDI data from underlying IT infrastructure, even the virtualization layer itself, to allow users to create their own work environments from any endpoint on the network.


The package is built on familiar Symantec approaches, such as the Open Collaborative Architecture that uses open standards to foster interoperability with other Symantec and third-party systems. The package also includes a suite of tools including Workspace Streaming, Workspace Virtualization and Workspace Remote designed to facilitate the management, delivery and consumption of software and applications at the endpoint.


Not everyone, though, has the means to establish and maintain an integrated VDI management stack, even though they would stand to benefit from a lower-cost desktop infrastructure. Those are the kinds of users ClearCube has in mind for its VB40 Virtual Desktop Infrastructure bundle. For just $599 per user, the package provides an instant VDI solution for up to 40 users, including 40 I8510 Thinclients with Intel Atom processors, an M2010S server with Dual Quad-Core Xeons, 24 GB of RAM and four 500 GB 3.0 Gbps SATA drives, Microsoft Hyper-V and ClearCube's Sentral 6.0 brokerage and management software. Everything is pre-integrated at the factory, so ClearCube promises a working VDI with minimal installation headaches for firms with limited IT skillsets.


Despite the lofty promises from vendors, however, there are those who remain unconvinced that the technology has any legs to stand on. Randall C. Kennedy, director of research for Competitive Systems Analysis, tallies up his complaints of virtual desktops here, arguing that they are unpopular with users, lack sufficiency scalability, and still lack the functionality of standard desktops. It's fair to say, though, that a good number of respondents to his blog beg to differ.


So have we turned the corner? Is VDI ready to take its place in the enterprise pantheon of top-level solutions? Judging by the number of deployments out there, I'd say we're getting close. It may not be right for all environments, but given that it's a cheaper solution than a workstation on every desk, I'll wager that many enterprise managers are anxious to see if it works in theirs.