Another round of virtual desktop technology, another round of predictions calling for the end of traditional desktop infrastructure in the enterprise.
The thing is, one of these days the VDI backers will probably be right. The question is whether that time is now.
The latest assault on the trusty PC comes from LG and NComputing. The two have teamed up on an "all-in-one" device that matches the Vspace desktop virtualization system with a low-cost client that the companies claim can be made available for less than $200 per seat. The system relies on a small virtualization appliance that allows about a dozen users to share a single desktop. LG is integrating the system into its 16-, 17- and 19-inch SmartVine N-series monitors.
While the LG/NComputing solution is the latest in a long list of VDI platforms, a number of firms are setting their sites in specific VDI implementations, indicating that some feel the market is mature enough to be carved into niches. Streamcore, for example, is leveraging its knowledge of VoIP and WAN acceleration technology into a VDI platform aimed at remote offices. The company says its ABBA engine overcomes the application latency issues that arise when you try to ship VDI traffic over the WAN using formats like the Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol or the Citrix ICA protocol. The system uses a prioritization system that gives precedence to VDI traffic over, say, printing and file copying.
Still, most VDI platforms suffer from performance degradation, which many in the industry say is a necessary trade-off for the lower capital and operational costs that the technology provides. VDIworks wants to settle that issues with a broad-based protocol aimed at delivering high-bandwidth multimedia data to virtual desktops. The VideoOverIP 1.0 protocol supports Hyper-V, VMware Virtual Server and ESX, as well as Flash, MPEG, DivX and many other multimedia formats, audio buffers, driver modes and compression systems. It also has the ability to provide remote service to and from numerous legacy server, Blade PC and standard PC infrastructure.
However, simply getting a VDI network in place is only half the battle, according to Computerworld's Denise Dubie. First off, most server virtualization teams probably won't be able to extend their management capabilities out to the desktop. So it will likely be user groups handling things like patch management, software distribution and the like -- and that will require a completely different mindset from the desktop management policies that are in place today. And while some organizations are seeing tremendous cost benefits with VDI, others report that the returns are difficult to quantify, and are often offset by the need to bolster centralized storage resources once local storage is removed.
But as the saying goes: "There are no problems, only opportunities." And it's very likely that as deployment issues continue to crop up, eager vendors will be there to meet them.
The question, therefore, is not whether VDI can overcome the technical challenges it faces, but whether it can do so cost-effectively.