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Gartner's Wolf on VDI's Challenges

Invariably, when I interview Gartner guru Chris Wolf, as I did recently for my upcoming VDI cover story, I end up with reams of great material that ends up on the cutting room floor, as it were. Chris's comments are just too good not to be used, so I am going to periodically pull out passages from his comments and post them in this blog.

This first one below is about the management challenges facing VDI users and how some innovative companies are overcoming those challenges--while some large storage vendors are doing their best to stand in the way, to the detriment of users.

BH: You talk about companies like Unidesk, MokaFive and AppSense. What is the value-add with these companies?

Chris Wolf: CIOs are very concerned about how they're connecting users to applications and data. They understand that we're bringing in mobile applications, and there are new devices, and there are higher expectations from users. When IT is not meeting those expectations, users are more than willing to circumvent IT. Dropbox is a great example of that, where people are not getting adequate file sharing from the IT department, so they're going out and finding a service and just doing it on their own.

CIOs really understand the problem. They know that the status quo of this monolithic architecture where users are sitting at a physical device, and they're basically tethered to that device for productivity, which is not the way forward. Even with the influx of Web and mobile applications, there are still all of these traditional Windows applications that need to be supported for a very long time. VDI or server-based computing are both key ways to connect users to those applications.

Now when you get into the ancillary area, when you get into more complex management, this is where vendors like Unidesk can really shine. When I talk about the TCO piece, it's easy to take physical desktops, just convert them into virtual desktops and stick them in the data center. That's kind of how people did things with virtual servers in the early days. That certainly works, but you're basically taking the same legacy management approach that you had with physical desktops, and you're reproducing it in the virtual world. In reality, if you really want to start to drive down those TCO savings, you have to rethink the way you're managing desktops, users and applications -- period.

That means going back to the drawing board, and saying, "OK. Now what is the most efficient way to deploy and centrally manage applications, application updates, and the entire desktop lifecycle?" The answer is to really look at some of these layered approaches that these innovative vendors can provide--approaches which are way outside of the traditional mainstream management vendors.

The challenge that vendors like Unidesk have is that they're up against some industry heavyweights that really don't want to see that model succeed. If I'm a storage vendor, I don't want organizations with thousands of users all sharing this common desktop image and just using some technology up in the software stack to segment users and give them the customizations that they need. I would rather give every user a dedicated image just like I did in the physical desktop world, and simply sell you terabytes upon terabytes of storage to keep all of that together.

[More excerpts from my conversation with Chris Wolf, coming soon...]

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 02/08/2012 at 12:48 PM


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