Desktop Virtualization is not an easy undertaking. There – I’ve said it. “But,” you may say, “I take a copy of the desktops I have, I run them on servers in the data-centre. Once that’s done, I don’t need to update those desktop devices; I can update the virtualized workspace instead far more quickly. The desktops are running on server hardware so they will be more reliable. Eventually, someone may well offer to host these workspaces on some infrastructure out in The Cloud”.
“Really, how hard can it be?”
If you are steering your organisations desktop strategy you need to consider that what may seem like a straightforward undertaking can in fact be a much larger and complex task. As with with any obstacle, understanding the size of the problem early gives a greater chance of avoiding it.
Lets consider the hosted desktop iceberg – how complex can a VDI solution be?
Browsers are the user workspace of the future. The issue with “traditional” applications are many and complex covering topics like deployment, updates, security and management. If you can move all of that headache to a centralized service and have users access that by firing up their device’s web browser then your troubles will be over. But an issue with web-based applications is, as with any application, the capabilities of the service grow to accommodate new functions and additional requirements. Applications may move to be hosted in “the cloud”, but there is will always be a need to ensure that the end device has an environment to run that web service in a secure, consistent and productive way. Browsers may well be the workspace of the future – but that future will still browsers to be updated, managed and maintained.
It is likely your business is moving to a post Windows XP environment. Perhaps you are updating traditional desktops or migrating to virtual desktop environment on Windows 7, or even a presentation virtualization environment based on Windows 2008 R2. Moving operating systems, means moving browser version. Microsoft would say this is a “Good Thing” – as they consider Internet Explorer (IE) 8 to be their best browser yet although to be fair, they’re hardly likely to say IE8 is bloated and overly complex.
There are still a good number of companies who have found that they cannot standardize on one browser for all users en masse without impacting on business functions. One application, or even a critical component of one application may not work if the browser for IE8 or IE7. At the same time, as users become more web aware, there is the demand of users to have more than just one browser available.
Can you support multiple browsers in your environment? How can you run IE6 in a Windows 7 or Windows 2008 environment? Will moving to a VDI infrastructure allow you to look back while moving forward and indeed, is the lack of support for different browsers – specifically different versions of IE – simply a temporary issue, resolved by focusing on changing the web delivery services so that they support the most recent browser? Ultimately, is one browser enough?
Our analysts leave VMworld 2010 having had great fun, having met some most excellent people and having been impressed with interesting vendors. Yet one thing puzzles after attending and discussing what we’ve experienced.
What is the focus of VMware’s Desktop Strategy?
- Is VMware really committed the Desktop Virtualization Market?
- What is VMware’s strategy going forward?
- How will VMware Differentiate from the Competition?
- How will VMware compete with the new vendors looking to disrupt and reinvent the desktop space?
Enterprises and mid-sized businesses (SME’s) face two significant challenges and opportunities with respect to the end user desktops in the next two years. The first opportunity and challenge is how to replace the ageing Windows XP installed base with the recently released Windows 7 platform. The second is how to end up with a desktop environment that is inherently more flexible and manageable than what is in place today.
Microsoft is due to ship Windows 7 this year. While normally the release of a new desktop OS would not be a major topic in the world of virtualization, it turns out that maybe this time it should be. For the follow reasons:
- Based upon early reports of the migration process, it is not going to be easy to migrate Windows XP desktops to Windows 7 (Vista Migrations are supposed to be easy). Windows XP constitutes by far the lion’s share of the installed base of Windows desktops, the early data says that this promises to be an extremely arduous and expensive process for enterprises worldwide.
- Once the process of migrating to Windows 7 is complete, will enterprises end up with desktop environments that are fundamentally more manageable than what they have today? The key to avoiding future painful migrations is to put management technologies in place that allow for wholesale changes to the end user computing environment to be much easier than they are today.
While server virtualization has largely settled down into a slugfest between VMware (vSphere), Microsoft (Hyper-V) and to a lesser extent Citrix (XenServer), and Red Hat (KVM), the desktop virtualization field remains wide open, and is being targeted by numerous startups with highly creative and appealing solutions. While VMware (View and ThinApp), Microsoft (App-V and MED-V), and Citrix (XenDesktop) certainly represent the large players in the field, startups like Install Free, MokaFive, Virtual Computer, SlickAccess, Unidesk, Kaviza, and Ringcube all bring unique and differentiated solutions to the table.