Was 2012 “The Year of VDI”?

2010, 2011, 2012, were all labeled “The Year of VDI”. 2010 and 2011 failed to live up to the hype, what about 2012 , was 2012 “The Year of VDI”?

Without question the answer must be “yes”.

Gartner Hype Cycle
Gartner Hype Cycle

  A hype cycle in Gartner’s interpretation comprises five phases:

  1. “Technology Trigger” — The first phase of a hype cycle is the “technology trigger” or breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.
  2. “Peak of Inflated Expectations” — In the next phase, over-enthusiasm coupled with lack of detailed understanding work to create unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.
  3. “Trough of Disillusionment” — failure to meet early expectations leads to disappointment, and the lack of success stories leads to the technology become unfashionable. Consequently, press coverage diminishes and the technology appears forgotten.
  4. “Slope of Enlightenment” — Although press coverage may have ceased, some businesses continue to implement the technology to gain an understanding of its practical application and benefits.
  5. “Plateau of Productivity” — A technology reaches the “plateau of productivity” as the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.

To slip back into the vernacular of the Gartner Hype Cycle, 2010 saw VDI reach “the Peak of Inflated Expectations”. Gartner themselves fell for the hype in 2009 with grossly inflated expectations of the size of the opportunity, and everybody else climbed on board proclaiming VDI as being the solution to every desktop management problem. However, in 2011 reality took hold and VDI came crashing down to earth with the realization that it was expensive, difficult to implement and showed a marked tendency towards poor performance unless carefully planned. So by 2012, everyone lost interest and VDI was consigned to obscurity.

Yet quietly in the background VDI was maturing. By the end of 2011 the cost of storage and thin clients had reduced the point where the capital cost of VDI have the match that of conventional desktop deployments. New storage solutions from Nimble, GreenBytes, and others, using high performance of solid state drives (SSD) in conjunction with in-line deduplication and compression to deliver performance without the cost overhead of conventional SAN storage have become staples of VDI environments, making the performance problems seen in boot storms a thing of the past. Competition with storage hypervisor technologies such as that offered by Virsto and Atlantis Computing has ensured price competition making it possible now to deliver a new Windows 7  desktop using VDI for less than the price of a conventional PC.

At the same time, the availability of converged infrastructure appliances was simplifying and accelerating the hardware decision-making process. Instead of having to battle the complexity of identifying the right of compute and storage platforms to base a VDI infrastructure on, vendors such as V3 Systems, Nutanix and Pivot3 were offering simple to buy, simple to use integrated VDI appliances combining compute and storage optimize to deliver virtual desktops. These VDI appliances moved the technology from a science projects to mainstream single click purchasing decision open to even the smallest business.

It’s fair to say then that vendors have done their bit in creating the potential for widespread VDI adoption, but that’s only one part of the picture. With VDI outside the limelight has it reached “the Slope of Enlightenment”? An end of year survey by Entelechy Associates suggests that this may well be the case. The survey showed that while the total number of desktops being delivered using VDI was still less than 10%, 55% of enterprises either have systems in production or are actively testing, running pilot deployments with 100 or more users.  Feedback from those running pilots does not paint quite the same picture, while some indicated that VDI would extend to at least 50% of desktops, others had significantly different perspective. Comments included:

I’m not sure that VDI and mobility integrate well together, I would rather grow the XenApp environment and deliver individual applications then deliver desktops to mobile devices. At the same time Web and SaaS is becoming more important and a desktop isn’t really needed for that.


We aren’t making the savings that we expected to and there are management issues to content with. It will be XenApp for Windows application delivery, along with native mobile and web apps.

At the same time that VDI adoption has been climbing, DaaS is growing in popularity.  The number of service providers offer DaaS in one form or another grew rapidly in 2012. Service providers are showing increased maturity, crafting better SLAs and showing improved implementation skills. There has also been substantial cross over between vendors, with VDI solutions been extended to support DaaS and DaaS vendors crossing over to sell on premise systems.

2012 was not without its low points. In August online gaming company and VDI pretender OnLive was forced to confront the fact that it had over anticipated demand for its services and could not maintain its burn rate. OnLive dissolved into bankruptcy to escape its debts only to be reincarnated the following day as OL2 Inc. OL2 continues to offer a  free desktop service “depending on availability” and the same promises that a $9.99/month Pro Service is “Coming Soon!” without sharing any indication when that might be or how it will be able to so so for such a low monthly charge. In November VDI innovator Pano Logic folded, disappearing overnight less than a week after issuing a press release that the company had landed a huge new account with one of Alabama’s largest credit unions. Leaving behind only unpaid bills, disappointed customers and wild speculation as to the nature of its sudden collapse.

Perhaps it would be best to offer a qualified yes in response to the starting question. For many 2012 was the year of VDI, the technology is maturing and customers are realizing not only the benefits of adoption, but the limit to which it can be deployed. For some though, those suffering the consequences of early adoption or gambling with a startup, the answer can only be “No”.

Whatever the answer, 2013 brings with it some significant concerns and some hope of grows and new opportunity.

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