It Will Be Virtualized
1. It will be virtualized Virtualization has saved money, time and space in the data center, and desktops will increasingly reap the benefits of virtualization in the next few years. As with server virtualization, desktop virtualization has the potential to improve the security, manageability and flexibility of the end-user desktop.Labs identified three different types of desktop virtualization: server-based computing on Microsoft's Terminal Services or Citrix Systems; running multiple operating system instances on a platform such as VMware ESX Server; or running a desktop environment in a virtual instance within client hardware. Desktop virtualization has been around in some form or another for many years, but performance concerns-as well as reticence of end users to run anything but a big, fat client-prevented deployment to the masses. However, the time seems to be ripe for desktop virtualization, with mainstream use inevitable in the next few years. "Thin-client computing has always been on the horizon, but the horizon keeps moving back," said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC. "There was always a performance hit or sacrifice, but it's catching up to what we expect in terms of performance." Dell's Darrel Ward sees virtualization as the solution for many IT challenges. "We think the next five years will be among the most interesting in the history of the desktop," said Ward, director of corporate desktops, Dell Product Group, in an e-mail to eWEEK. "The big challenges are the move to mobility, security, hardware and software asset management, and greener IT. Desktop virtualization will become a huge force in addressing these challenges because it can offer answers to all of these challenges," he said. "It supports even greater workforce mobility and flexibility. It improves data control and security while simplifying OS, application and image management. It also allows customers to build a power management plan that aligns with their particular challenges from desktop to data center. However, we do not see it as a 'one size fits all' solution." Indeed, virtualization is no silver bullet. One issue is how applications will be licensed in a virtual environment, with Microsoft's licensing schemes causing some of the biggest concerns. Said a reader commenting on the Labs' desktop virtualization special report: "When our organization sought to deploy an application in a virtualized environment to make life easier for our staff and our business partners, we ran smack-dab into a very restrictive Microsoft licensing policy. Today we deploy our application on the business partner's machine. However, to deploy it virtualized, Microsoft wanted us to pay for a desktop OS license, even though the business partner's machine was already running Windows XP." Another reader agreed that the desktop is the future of virtualization-after a few kinks are worked out: "Desktop virtualization is the next step in virtualization, and, after it works out a few problems, [it] will probably grow to a respectable percentage of all IT desktops. Performance may be an issue, especially over long WAN links, should congestion [or printing issues] arise. It would be wise to investigate how the underlying protocols will impact your WAN traffic and look into solutions to optimize (RDP, etc.)." Wanting to extend the benefits it has seen from server virtualization to the desktop, Nina Plastics deployed Pano Logic's server-based solution, comprising Pano desktop devices, Pano software services and VMware virtualization software. Before deciding on Pano, Kunal Patel, IT director at the Orlando, Fla., manufacturing company, evaluated a number of other options. "We looked at thin clients and other solutions, but they added complexity at the desktop level. We would end up being maintenance and would never have time to implement new technologies and methodologies for the business." Patel implemented the Pano solution last year. He said the technology has saved Nina time (IT staffers don't have to touch every machine) and money (each Pano device costs $300, as opposed to the $700 to $1,000 Nina was paying for workstations from Dell or Hewlett-Packard). The technology also saves electricity, said Patel, using 5 watts of power per Pano device, compared with 200 to 300 watts for traditional desktops. "There is nothing to mange at the end point-no moving parts, no OS, no drivers to install," Patel told eWEEK. "Everything is done in the data center. So what we've done is eliminated all of these machines with different processors, memories, chip sets [and so on], because now we have Panos at every user's workstation. Everything is uniform because they're being run on identical VMware ESX servers."
In a March special report, eWEEK Labs Executive Editor Jason Brooks defined desktop virtualization as the products and services that separate the client software environment from the client hardware environment.