Take Five With Tom Fenton

Five Reasons 2014 will be the Year of VDI

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has long been hailed as the capability we should all be using. In many cases, the truth is performance becomes slow at scale. Hidden storage costs outweigh the intended cost-efficiencies. That may all be changing with new products and capabilities designed to overcome those limitations.

There's a flurry of virtual desktop news lately: VMware is buying Desktone to ramp up its DaaS cloud/service provider capabilities. Virtual Bridges VERDE is rolling out support for multi-tenancy (and dual-monitor Linux for us dev geeks). NComputing is bringing down the costs of Citrix session virtualization. Even the convergence and hyper-convergence players are getting serious about VDI.

We can think of five reasons 2014 will be the year VDI adoption really ramps up:

Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) finally breaks out. VMware buying Desktone proves two things: One is that VMware is serious about service provider scales of cloud building. Two is that DaaS has proved both viable and profitable for service providers and productive and cost-efficient for subscribers. Providing VDI as a cloud service only makes sense. It becomes elastic, dynamic and pay-as-you-go. Letting new users self-provision desktops and apps online with a few clicks changes the whole way the rest of the business views IT. "What? No waiting for three days for an IT guy to stop by and install a bunch of stuff?"

Mobile devices are becoming productive endpoints. Between BYOD and an increasingly distributed workforce, supporting workers productively across any device has been a challenge. We see more devices, OSes and protocols supported to the point where by the end of this year, practical VDI options should reach critical mass. There will be no need to force users to choose between PC, Mac, dedicated thin client, Android or iOS clients, nor between Windows or Linux virtual desktops.

VM-aware storage directly addresses IO bottlenecks. We all know the dirty secret of VDI is that storage is really the problem with scaling out properly. Part of the problem is a fundamental misalignment between traditional storage and how hypervisors work -- LUNs and file systems. Now we have solutions like Atlantis ILIO for memory-based VDI acceleration layered over older SAN/NAS and Tintri's newest VMstore T650 for directly integrated VM-aware storage that can support 2K+ VMs for massive VDI hosting.

Hyperconvergence provides building blocks for VDI infrastructure. It's almost too easy to build a fully featured datacenter with "simple" Lego-like infrastructure solutions like Simplivity, Scale Computing and Nutanix Hyperconverged infrastructures. Besides its built-in VM-aware storage, Simplivity announced its OmniCube can incorporate a PCoIP offload engine and NVIDIA GPUs to ramp up VDI scale and performance.

Applications are becoming more "app" like. Finally, we see more business productivity applications with more app-like features, UIs or even lightweight app alternatives. This takes a load off the need for high-end desktop services to start with. It also frees up resources for those users and applications that really need them.

We haven't even mentioned advances in CPU, network, VDI protocols or flash technology that also accelerate the client VDI experience. If your organization has previously toyed around with VDI, but shelved the idea, it might be time to revisit virtualizing desktops, either wholesale or in select parts of your organization. The potential OpEx savings and productivity opportunities should be motivation enough. The good will from your business counterparts will be priceless.

About the Author

Mike Matchett is a senior analyst and consultant with IT analyst firm Taneja Group.


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