VDI Evolves Beyond Desktop Replacement

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2011-12-29 Print this article Print

Once viewed as the formula for desktop PC provisioning and management roles, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology is moving into the mainstream via a new path, as a solution for business services.

Most enterprise administrators have viewed Virtual Desktop Infrastructure as a way to deliver enterprise desktops to users more efficiently. However, VDI can deliver more than just a typical business desktop; the technology can also be used to deliver specialized business services.

A case in point is bank hardware vendor Diebold, which is now running a pilot program to deliver ATM (Automated Teller Machine) services via VDI. Diebold's program aims to transform how enterprises deliver business services by divorcing the dedicated/proprietary hardware from the business service through virtualization technology.

In a phone conference, Mark Kropf, who works in Diebold's Emerging Technologies division, explained that most ATMs in the United States today are based on a built-in PC processor, which runs a version of Microsoft's Windows XP. He added that over time those installations have become complex and difficult to manage. Kropf acknowledged that going the VDI route will give Diebold and its banking customers the ability to more efficiently deliver ATM services.

"We do have a process to go in and retrofit an ATM with a zero client device and uplift the ATM to extend its useful life," Kropf said. Diebold is building its virtualized ATM solution using Cisco products. The success of Diebold's project will have a lasting impact on the VDI market by demonstrating how VDI can be used to do more than just physical enterprise desktop replacement. There is a potential for additional growth.

In a study last year, ABI Research predicted that the worldwide market for hosted virtual desktops is forecast to grow from about $500 million in 2009 to nearly $5 billion in 2016. North America and Europe will comprise the majority of the market for virtual desktops throughout the forecast period. If VDI can be extended to more than hosted virtual desktops, the market could grow even more significantly than ABI Research has predicted.

Diebold has an OEM relationship with Cisco to help create the zero client devices for the ATMs. Diebold has standardized on the Cisco UCS server platform for their server core and backend services. Kropf said that the VDI deployment in the server core is very dense since the memory and CPU specifications for a virtual ATM are much lower than is required for a typical user desktop.

Cisco UCS, which was announced in March 2009, is a converged server platform that is optimized for virtualization and VDI deployments, which has continually evolved to offer more capabilities and services. Kropf noted that moving towards VDI has not been without its fair share of challenges for Diebold. When Diebold started the project more than two and a half years ago, each virtual ATM required more than 100M bps of bandwidth.

"VDI is very focused on the user and we have a kiosk setup-and the UCS performance numbers were based on server virtualization," Kropf said. "So we're constantly testing and learning more about our density and how far we can push it."

"There are so many things that this opens up. And that is why instead of working in a silo and taking five years to develop this, we've announced this early and we're working with customers," Kropf said. "We see this as a story that will continue on in our industry and our cloud computing future."

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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