A great deal has been written about why virtual desktops are the right answer for business and that this is the year for explosive deployment. A fair amount has also been written about how, despite increases in deployments, the explosion always seems to be just around the corner. As CEO of Molten Technologies, a VDI specialist and virtual desktop service provider, Robin Tapp has an interesting perspective on the situation.
There is no doubt that virtual desktop technology is “hot” right now. The technology industry is tripping over itself to announce solutions, partnerships and innovative offerings. The analysts are making ever-increasing predictions about scale and pace. Almost every organisation out there when asked the question “are you looking into some sort of virtualisation of the desktop” will reply with a firm positive. Everyone is at least considering it, many are beginning to pilot it and some are even rolling it out to certain user groups.
Scale deployment, however, seems to be taking a little bit longer than many have predicted and quite a few hoped. Some of the early predictions would have it nearly wall-to-wall by now. So is there a problem? Does it deliver less than predicted? Or is business just too slow to pick up on something obviously wonderful? The answer is complex and varies business by business, but there are some patterns emerging.
Goal/business driver complexity
Sometimes my conversations on the potential benefits of virtual desktops with business or IT leaders can seem a bit like opening Pandora’s box. Once you start to challenge the previously accepted model of the physical PC for each user, the possibilities seem endless. A brief, and non-exhaustive, list of impacted areas includes:-
– Security (e.g. no data on the end-point)
– Major upgrade risk and cost reduction (splits hardware and OS upgrade)
– Office space savings (enables hot-desking)
– Speed to open new offices (less kit in the office, e.g. thin clients and internet access)
– Business continuity (can be accessed from home or another office easily)
– Enables bring you own computing models (e.g. for third parties)
– Supports iPads or MacBooks for the Board
– Maintenance advantages (e.g. patches can be applied overnight)
I could go on and many clients do. The issue with all this is that if a business works all of these through to their logical conclusion before doing anything, it will take years and create a massive change programme.
There are a number of flavours of virtualisation out there in the desktop space and some lack of consistency about what to call them (have you seen the “desktop virtualisation” vs “virtual desktop infrastructure” discussions?). There are also a very large number of technical solutions all claiming to solve every issue you have ever heard of with the words “desktop” and “virtualisation” in the title. So it is easy to see why businesses get confused by the various offerings on the market and how they compare to each other. This can cause some decision-making delays, but more importantly, it can mean that a bad experience in with one technology or provider can lead to wider than appropriate applications of the lessons learned. Other providers or technologies which might inherently solve that problem run the risk of being discounted because they have the same word in the title.
Scale of investment
Most of the solutions on the market today, require a fairly substantial up-front investment from the client. In many cases, it involves buying the server, networking and storage infrastructure to host the desktops and all the associated licences as well as paying for a third party to put it all together and run a project to implement it. Depending on the size of the business, this can run into millions of pounds, so you can see why it is a decision that one might want to take some time over.
In summary then, when considering virtual desktops it is complex to work out what you are trying to achieve and complex to work out how to achieve it and then it is expensive to implement. No wonder the implementation “explosion” hasn’t happened yet, despite lots of good reasons why it might be the right thing to do.
My advice (which the more observant of you will notice is self-serving, but no less genuine for that, we set up Molten Technologies
specifically to meet this need so no wonder that it does so) is:-
– Find an independent specialist to advise you.
– Start with the simple use-cases with the best benefits
(Eat the elephant one bite at at time).
– Go with a hosted solution if you can (to reduce up-front investment and so that you don’t need to worry about the technical solution as long as it meets its SLAs) or follow a step-by-step deployment approach that delivers a positive business case at each step.