2011 Year in Review Desktop Virtualization – Part I

The countdown clock for the end of life of windows XP (the most successful operating system of all time) is running; enterprise IT is having to adjust to multiple disruptive trends that will stress it as never before, mobility, security, smart phones, tablets, BYOD, the cloud, even Apple has found a foothold in the enterprise. Budgets are tight, unemployment is high, mistakes cannot be afforded. This is the 2011 Year in Review for Desktop Virtualization.

And despite, or possibly because of this 2012 is going to be a blockbuster year for desktop virtualization.

In Part I, I will be looking at the major trends that will drive desktop virtualization; then in Part II, I will look at what 2012 will bring for the major desktop virtualization vendors.

Major Trends

The Service Influence

Growth in the use of software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing will increasing impact desktop virtualization. Desktop as a service (DaaS) adoption increasing over the course of the year. The largest growth is likely to be seen in education markets, where there are many benefits and few obstacles that would hinder adoption. Outside of education DaaS is not likely to achieve the same momentum largely due to the difficulties of integrating existing client/server applications into public cloud hosted DaaS environments. DaaS will however make some gains in the enterprise, especially amongst those service providers that can offer locally hosted private cloud implementations.

SaaS and cloud computing adoption will cause further secondary market changes. Increased exposure to pay-for-use licensing will likely educate CFOs/CIOs to opportunities it presents for budgetary purposes, at the same time more farsighted vendors will also understand the opportunity that service based sales models present and will start to license otherwise conventionally packaged software as though they were services. This is one change that will do both vendors and customers good, both will benefit from measures that smooth the boom bust cycle of sales/procurement that make life so difficult for both sides to plan their respective budgets.  More importantly, the often touted”partnership” between vendor and customer will be strengthened, perhaps realized might be a more honest description.

User-centric Computing  and the XP Effect

2010 and 2011 have seen multiple convergent trends leading towards the need for enterprise IT to take a less prescriptive role in managing desktops and become a better business partner. The need to support increasingly mobile users and adopt to trends such as Bring-your-own-Computer (BYOD) is rapidly making older device-centric application management tools obsolete. Desktop virtualization systems have come into being as these trends have developed making them inherently user-centric solutions from day one. With now only 28 months left before Microsoft ends support for Windows XP, the push to migrate to Windows 7 will become a rush. Desktop virtualization has already been shown to be a a highly effective means of facilitating the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7, and this trend is likely to continue over the course of 2012 and into 2013. Many of the Windows XP/Windows 7 migration support tools were developed with desktop virtualization in mind, and desktop virtualization vendors have been quick to cement alliances between themselves and migration support tool vendors.

Together these two factors will significantly boost the adoption of desktop virtualization technologies while significantly reducing market share for previous generation desktop management solutions.

Desktop Virtualization is (much) more than VDI

Despite VDI’s failure to meet early expectations, the technology is by no means obsolete. Cisco’s entry into the VDI market in November 2010 presaged the point at which VDI became had reached sufficient maturity for widespread adoption. As 2011 progressed, the size and number of VDI projects undertaken has grown considerably, with no reason to think that this trend will not continue throughout 2012. with 2009, 2010, and 2011 all being put forward as “The year of VDI”, to suggest that 2012 will be the year, is likely to be met with little enthusiasm. However, as technologies have matured, and costs fallen if ever there will be a single year when VDI lives up to its early promise then that year is most likely to be 2012.

For all the promise that VDI shows, one thing is however quite clear. VDI is unlikely to dominate the overall desktop market. Distributed desktop virtualization technologies such as those offered by MokaFive, Wanova, and Virtual Computer which can be implemented with minimal data center infrastructure are far better placed than VDI to dominate the market. It is still too soon to predict just how much of the overall desktop market will go to VDI, and how much will be managed using distributed desktop virtualization technologies, however it should be possible to determine this before 2012 draws to a close.

Consolidating the Layer Cake

With the major capital cost obstacles to VDI deployment addressed, the two largest challenges remaining to VDI adoption are its inherent complexity and the number of startups with key enabling technologies. With this in mind, expect a continuation of the trend seen in the 2011 with larger desktop virtualization vendors either making major investments in key startups, or buying them outright. Both Citrix and Quest have been engaging in buying sprees, respectively picking up Kaviza, RingCube, App-DNA, and VKernel (now Quest), ChangeBASE, RemoteScan (as well as several other companies outside of the desktop virtualization space). VMware stayed clear of the desktop virtualization acquisition trail in 2011 after its difficult time with RTO in 2010. Instead focusing its end user computing acquisitions on its post-PC Horizon strategy. Still, if progress with Horizon does not meet VMware’s expectations, 2012 could well see it returning to the desktop virtualization acquisition game. Market watchers should not rule out action by Symantec, Novell and perhaps even Oracle who could all benefit from being able to offer a stronger desktop virtualization portfolio. Both Novell and Symantec would benefit most from improving their distributed desktop virtualization portfolio. It would also be wise to keep an eye on the big storage vendors, many of whom are getting left behind by the more agile virtual storage appliance vendors.

With this in mind, 2012 could see big paydays for the founders of some desktop virtualization startups as the big fish snap up the startups in a bid to reduce the cost and complexity of VDI, and just as importantly, bolster confidence in the VDI by eliminating the risk of working with startups.

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