The Mixed-Up World of Desktop Virtualization

    Whenever an emerging technology attracts a lot of attention from the vendor community, a lot of patience is usually required while various standards and the overall market sort themselves out. But desktop virtualization has become a notable case where the vendor community is rapidly becoming its own worst enemy.

    All the bickering and infighting over various desktop virtualization protocols and implementations only serves to slow down adoption. Right now, we have VMware pushing PC-over-IP, while Citrix pushes an expanded version of its terminal services protocol that it now calls FlexCast. In the meantime, Red Hat has decided to open source the desktop virtualization protocol, dubbed Simple Protocol for Indepedent Computing Environment (SPICE), that it acquired when it purchased Qumranet. And just to make things a little more interesting, NComputing and Wanova have proprietary protocols in play that both companies claim are dramatically better than anything being pushed by VMware and Citrix.

    The funny thing about the vendor wrangling over desktop virtualization is that, at the moment, the most popular form of desktop virtualization beyond traditional desktop virtualization usually involves Citrix protocols being used to access a VMware virtual server. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Most IT organizations already have Citrix and VMware technology in place, so why bring in something new when what you have in place does an adequate job of deploying a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution in the first place.

    Of course, the quality of the user experience still needs some work; hence all the infighting over a better class of desktop virtualization protocols that will provide a user experience that pretty much mirrors a traditional desktop deployment.

    Naturally, a lot of this infighting would disappear if the vendors would agree to some basic standards in this area. Or perhaps a de facto standard might appear if Microsoft would get off its duff in this area. Understandably, Microsoft is dragging its feet when it comes to desktop virtualization because it would rather wait and see how many instances of Windows 7 will be sold in the enterprise before committing to an approach that essentially requires Microsoft to come up with some new licensing models for a major company cash cow.

    At some point in 2010, however, vendors will have to put these childish games aside and do the mature thing by coming together around some standards for desktop virtualization. We can only hope they get on with it sooner rather than later.

    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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