Virtualizing the User

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Why Myths Should Be Left to the Gods

As the year winds down, it seems appropriate to clear out a few myths in order to start the New Year with a fresh understanding of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

Let us look at four of the most prevalent myths and how, when VDI is implemented properly, they are revealed as baseless fears.

Myth 1: VDI is storage-heavy and therefore cost-heavy.

Truth: One reason these myths exists is the belief that, in order for VDI to run successfully, an organization has to rely on a surplus of storage, which quickly adds to the cost of the infrastructure required to support VDI. Both of these myths really come down to the fact that early adopters of VDI needed to adopt a one-to-one approach when it came to the virtual machine images held in the datacenter, in order to receive user acceptance.

Today, the technology exists and is being used to enable the one-to-many approach to be a reality while retaining user acceptance, and in turn rapidly reducing the storage requirement. The truth is that if the IT team has understood the requirement and planned the deliverable, VDI should not require a surplus of storage. Furthermore, so long as IT breaks the deliverable down into management standardized components (also known as componentization), then the overall cost of managing the componentized model desktop can be significantly less than managing the existing desktop estate.

The component model can also be leveraged across the existing physical estate, thus bringing management savings across the entire desktop estate (physical and virtual). User virtualization also plays its part in reducing desktop management costs by treating the user environment as separate from the desktop and application delivery methods. This separation enables IT to standardize the corporate assets (desktop and application sets) and automate the delivery of the user's working environment, significantly reducing operational costs.

Myth 2: VDI is too hard.

Truth: There are two key elements that play into this perceived difficulty.

One is on the technological side, promoting the myth that VDI is too complex and therefore too hard to implement and seamlessly integrate with existing systems.

The other aspect contributing to complexity is the human element in the form of user acceptance. Users are accustomed to being in control of their data, applications and desktop environment, which can make it hard for them to relinquish control and swap their customized computers for a cookie-cutter (componentized) virtual desktop.

Without user acceptance, it is widely accepted that IT projects are destined for failure. One of the main challenges for VDI, particularly with the growing numbers of employees who want to use their own mobile devices to connect to the business in order to perform work activities, will be delivering services to secure, managed endpoints while giving the users enough flexibility and a sense of self-control over their working environment. By separating the user layer, it is possible to enable the personalization of the desktop experience and to realize a feeling of self-ownership within the user community, while enabling IT to implement unique desktop management based on user, application or scenario and still retain the ability to enforce corporate access and security policies.

Myth 3: Virtualization and the cloud are one and the same.

Truth: At the desktop level, virtualization and the cloud make use of similar technologies to reach the user, although they are located in very different places. Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is the cloud solution delivering standard desktops to enterprise users from an external provider at low cost, with virtualization effectively being VDI where the enterprise makes use of similar technology but manages the delivery and technology itself.

Any company looking to improve enterprise desktop management capabilities should consider desktop virtualization and cloud when determining its desktop management strategy. In the case of cloud computing, the enterprise may well be able to take advantage of the cloud’s improved economics to deliver lower cost desktop estate management. Transferring certain desktop and application virtualization technology solutions to the cloud, for example, can unlock their full potential.

Some enterprises may choose to go all the way and migrate all desktops and applications to the cloud, while others may prefer to keep their data close to the vest, choosing to use the cloud only for particular application services. This is a key advantage of cloud services: One does not have to jump in with both feet, so migrations can occur one service at a time as appropriate to the enterprise.

Overall, enterprises should be seeking out solutions that help them understand the practical implications of the user experience across the desktop, whether it is physical, virtual or in the cloud. At this point, the most applicable solutions can be considered and tested for suitability to the user requirements.

Myth 4: VDI is merely an extension of Server Based Computing (SBC).

Truth: With the similar goal of providing users with a common desktop from a central datacenter location, it would be easy to assume that VDI and SBC are somewhat interchangeable. While there are similarities that can be drawn, it is key to understand the primary limitations of the technology areas before assuming that they are one and the same, and opting for an SBC model because of its far more attractive TCO.

SBC was a good first step towards standardization as a cost-effective, reliable way to deliver a small common set of applications to a large number of users in a standardized format. However, there are limitations, including the fact that many applications are just not capable of delivery via a Windows Server operating system, given that users are effectively sharing the server resources. VDI goes beyond SBC, combining its benefits with those of the desktop operating system, where the application set does not have to share the underlying operating system, thus removing many of the application conflict challenges. When we add user management capabilities into the mix, we have a very powerful combination indeed.

By abstracting the user layer from the OS and applications, it is possible to have a VDI implementation that can dynamically scale to satisfy needs on-demand instead of holding memory and storage hostage "just in case" they might be required. IT can scale its environment to fit the number of users that are currently running and then provision additional virtual machines as needed to accommodate any additional users in real time. Managing the desktop and application set independently of the user environment allows IT to build standard images on-demand as components for each user in real time.

IT can keep the components separate and assemble them as required in real time, allowing a high degree of standardization that would have been impossible before while keeping users happy with their service deliverable. Ultimately, IT gets great flexibility in the selection of how applications are delivered.

What other important myths have you heard about VDI? Please share them in the comments section.

Posted by Simon Rust on 12/22/2010 at 12:49 PM


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