Desktop Virtualization and End-User Computing – Partial Fit… At Best

Michael Barnes
Vice President, Research Director
June 28, 2012

Demand for mobility is rising dramatically, but IT support is not keeping up. Over the next 12-18 months, we expect a majority of Asia Pacific (AP) organizations to begin to feel the pain of poor mobility strategies. Now is the time to define and manage mobility as part of a broader end-user computing strategy – this must include desktop virtualization initiatives, including (but not limited to) virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). But while server virtualization is now accepted as a fundamental design principle and part of any data center implementation or refresh, that doesn’t mean desktop virtualization will follow suit. Long touted as a means to simplify desktop provisioning and management – and hence improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organizations’ end-user computing strategy – over the past decade desktop virtualization has been driven primarily by CIO’s desire to lower hardware costs – by delaying or skipping PC refresh cycles – simplify application provisioning, and increase compliance and control of desktop infrastructure in areas like data security and patch management. Desktop virtualization doesn’t adequately address all end-user computing requirements since it’s essentially focused on eliminating the client device from the equation. This is particularly true for VDI. Thin (e.g. ‘dumb’) clients won’t work in a world where a growing percentage of users – not just information workers – are mobile and expect access to key resources but also expect those resources to be optimized for the particular device they’re using. With the explosion in device usage and changes in end-user expectations, IT is being forced to expand its focus around end-user computing from ‘control’ to ‘engagement’. Desktop virtualization will remain a key component of many organizatons’ end-user computing strategies, but its role will remain limited for a variety of reasons. Despite the combined efforts of vendors like Citrix, MSFT and VMware, our data confirms that demand for desktop virtualization continues to lag well behind virtualization of other datacenter infrastructure, particularly servers and storage. Typical concerns center on performance and usability, (including seemingly basic things like lack of support for remote printing) and application licensing restrictions. Other factors hindering demand include: ■ High costs relative to benefits. The high cost of storage and networking requirements remain clear inhibitors to desktop virtualization, particularly for server-centric terminal server (or shared hosted) approaches. These added costs are not easily offset by benefits since the price of PCs continues to drop steadily, making refreshes cheaper. ■ Lack of understanding and expertise, particularly in growth markets in AP. While server virtualization is now well-understood across most of AP, including growth markets of China and India, desktop virtualization is not. This is particularly true in less mature IT markets where desktop infrastructure management policies and practices are still often either ad-hoc or nonexistent. ■ Lack of budget. Desktop virtualization projects often cut across different, traditionally isolated functions within IT – desktop, datacenter, networking, architecture – making project funding an ongoing challenge for most organizations. This problem is exacerbated by the upfront infrastructure investments needed to support desktop virtualization. ■ User resistance. Ongoing resistance from end-users to desktop virtualization – particularly among information workers – is hardly surprising since the move is still often perceived by users to mean replacing their full-featured windows desktop (along with its local processing capabilities and configuration options) with a dumb terminal. My upcoming report, titled “End-User Computing Trends in Asia Pacific 2012/13 – From Desktop Virtualization To User Experience Management” will provide far more details on the role desktop virtualization – in all it’s various forms – will play within a broader end-user computing strategy.


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