Making Desktop Virtualization Work for the Enterprise

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

When Is It Right for a Business to Consider Desktop Virtualization?

Tips for determining whether desktop virtualization is right for your business.

Desktop virtualization is the Rodney Dangerfield of IT - it just gets no respect.

Despite the fact that deployments continue at a steady - not stellar, but steady - clip and there are already millions of users around the world, many tech observers continue to disregard the technology because it hasn't completely obliterated the PC just yet.

It seems, though, that interest in desktop virtualization is on a steady incline. New data from Forester suggests the growth curve will be at least 27 percent over the next two years, and could be as high as 46 percent. And apparently, demand ranges from small firms to giant corporations and spans multiple industries and geographic locations.

For many enterprises, then, the question is rapidly shifting from, "Should I deploy desktop virtualization?" to "How do I prepare my existing infrastructure?"

One of the key things to keep in mind, according to NComputing's Jim McHugh, is not to over-do it. Too much virtualization in the desktop infrastructure can give heartburn to the rest of your plant, particularly in networking and storage. Like any major upgrade, desktop virtualization should only happen once a detailed strategy has been adopted - one that acknowledges your needs and your existing capabilities.

One of the things that many organizations might not think about in their desktop virtualization plans is WAN optimization, says Riverbed Senior Product Marketing Manager Joe Ghory. This is a mistake because productivity depends on all workers having equal access to enterprise resources. Without a robust WAN, remote workers will have limited access to servers, hypervisors, display protocols and numerous other components that make up the desktop experience. Only a full, end-to-end WAN optimization platform will have the chops to support an active desktop environment.

The type of desktop virtualization you deploy will also have a great impact on your ability to support, manage and expand it over the long term, says tech blogger Stewart Baines. For instance, a basic platform will eat up much more storage than one that uses a shared operating system in which a single OS is deployed to multiple users. However, the shared approach makes personalization more problematic, so it won't help much with employees who hold unique responsibilities and therefore have diverse application needs. And anyone working with heavy data loads like video and graphics are probably best working on their own PC anyway.

Still, the one thing that virtualization has demonstrated over the past decade is flexibility. Just as enterprises have grown adept at determining what server architectures and application sets are most amenable to virtualization, desktops and users will be subject to the same cost/benefit analysis.

The continuing struggle to find "the" desktop virtualization platform that kicks the technology into the mainstream, while perhaps ultimately futile, will nonetheless produce a vibrant universe of techniques and approaches that is as diverse as the work force it hopes to serve.

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Sep 22, 2011 2:35 PM Tony Tony  says:

Great topic. I would go as far as to say the wide area network (WAN) can really be the Achilles heel for desktop virtualization, and WAN optimization (Silver Peak, Riverbed) the key enabler.  Although, I'm not sure you'd want to put your desktop virtualization eggs in Riverbed's basket.  SeeWAN optimization for desktop virtualization needs to be 'real-time' because hosted virtual desktops are very susceptible to packet loss, and unlike other WANop approaches, Silver Peak provides forward error correction in real-time, as opposed to retransmitting when packets go bad.  Desktop virtualization also generates a lot of flows!  If thousands of clients are connecting to a single data center that means the data center must support hundreds-of-thousands of flows.  From a WAN optimization perspective, Silver Peak has the highest flow/session support in the industry at 256,000 in one appliance.  And finally, many virtual desktops run over non-TCP protocols (including VMware/Sun), and Silver Peak is unique in the WANop space with optimization for ALL IP traffic. I look forward to more coverage on this topic.

Sep 25, 2011 1:54 PM VESK Team VESK Team  says:

Great article.  I've noticed a fair few blogs against VDI and really talking it down.  I agree with you in that there are millions of deployments, which is itself proof in the pudding.  These negative blogs seem to be around one in then that I'm reading, not bad considering.  I feel the reason anyone is talking down VDI is for the exact reason you say, because it's not taken off as quickly as we all had hoped.

When certain companies are predicting that "60% of desktops will be virtual by 2014" it sets the expectation barrier a little too high.  We can't ignore plain fact, and I can see around a year on year increase in VDI implementations of around 5 - 10%.  Hopefully one day we will get to around 50% total virtual desktops, the rest being businesses who will never move, live in remote locations or have seriously high intense graphics apps that require rich fat clients.  Although we do have AutoCad running through a virtual desktop, it's still easier to run it locally.

VESK hosted desktops

Dec 14, 2011 1:28 PM Bryan Smith Bryan Smith  says:

Hi Arthur, I am totally agree with you the demand of desktop virtualization is going high in the future and it will ranges from small firms to giant corporations and geographic locations.


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