The Local Angle to Desktop Virtualization

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

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

Centralization and consolidation have always been key benefits to virtualization. Enterprises of all stripes have streamlined burgeoning server architectures through aggressive virtualization, even as those efforts added stress to other elements of the data architecture.

When it comes to desktop virtualization, however, many platforms are starting to pull back from the centralization aspect. As it turns out, pooling desktop images into centralized infrastructure kicks network and storage requirements into the stratosphere where it can seriously hamper performance. The logical solution, then, is to streamline the centralized desktop image while leaving much of the personalization on local hardware. Call it a hybrid style of virtualization.

Intel is adding increased local functionality to its Intelligent Desktop Virtualization program. The company has tapped RES Software for a new reference architecture for Intel Core processors based on the RES Virtual Desktop Extender (VDX). The approach allows enterprises to supplement virtual desktops with applications and services hosted on the local PC. In this way, enterprises gain a consistent desktop architecture while continuing to employ local processing, graphics and peripherals.

Virtual desktop innovator Citrix Systems has caught local fever as well. The company recently acquired RingCube Technologies, which gained fame with its Mojopac device that was able to build virtual desktop files atop local installations of Windows. The company's latest development, the vDisk, takes that concept a step further by storing personal settings and other unique components while leaving the common elements to centralized storage. It's too early to say exactly how Citrix will integrate the technology, but it's a safe bet that the company is angling to dramatically lower the central desktop footprint.

Smaller firms like Wanova are tapping local resources as a way to shake up an industry that has had trouble breaking into the enterprise mainstream. The company recently received a patent for parts of its Mirage platform, which enables desktop centralization in the standard fashion but leaves some functions, like multimedia processing, to local resources. The system's layering technology also allows some work to continue while disconnected from the network.

These and other developments strongly suggest that the PC and other thick clients are going to be around for a while longer, according to ostatic.com's Sam Dean. The relatively tepid response to Google's Chrome operating system suggests a strong aversion to reliance on the cloud and other online resources for applications and services that users have enjoyed closer to home for so long. In all likelihood, local and remote resources will enjoy a symbiotic relationship as technologies develop that emphasize their respective strengths.

The healthy deployment of 10 GbE and faster networks will ultimately put enterprises in a place where they can comfortably house servers, desktops and other resources in a central infrastructure and maintain adequate performance on the edge. But that process still has a way to go. In the meantime, the new virtual desktop platforms offer a lot in terms of management and configuration benefits, even if a good chunk of the platform depends on local prowess.

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