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www.infotech.com Impact Research 1 Desktop Virtualization: A New Desktop Delivery Technology Takes Flight

Desktop Virtualization a New Desktop Delivery

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Desktop Virtualization

Text of Desktop Virtualization a New Desktop Delivery

DV Impact Report*
Desktop virtualization moves desktop computing to virtual machines hosted on servers.
The end user interacts with a full desktop (typically Windows) environment while management of software, processing, and storage is removed from distributed desktop machines.
There is significant interest in desktop virtualization.
About 39% of organizations are planning, piloting, or implementing solutions. Currently about 5% of organizations have already implemented. Info-Tech expects implementations to double in 2010 and continue to grow in the next decade.
Desktop virtualization is an emerging technology ready for prime-time and should be part of every organization’s technology strategy.
Desktop virtualization is a relative newcomer and it is still in its early days in terms of adoption. However, it has significant potential to address the end user needs of a larger proportion of the end users than the established presentation virtualization (Citrix XenApp, Microsoft Terminal Services).
Some limitations still remain.
Research Method
The Desktop Virtualization Impact Reports are based on results from 204 surveyed IT managers and in depth interviews with 30 IT leaders.
All major industry segments, sizes of organizations, and revenue brackets were represented.
Organizations at all stages of implementation or consideration of desktop virtualization were represented.
Research Method
Virtualization is all about layers of abstraction
Virtualization inserts a layer of abstraction between system layers. The system layer above interacts with an abstraction rather than something “real”.
Key Definitions for Desktop Virtualization
A desktop computer is comprised of four system layers:
Physical Machine
The processor, memory, and storage that sits on the desk.
Operating System
Typically Microsoft Windows but could also be a desktop Linux variant or the Mac OS.
Such as an e-mail client, word processor, spreadsheet, or enterprise application client (example: client side application for a CRM system).
The user interface including what is presented on the desktop monitor and interacted with via input devices (keyboard, mouse).
Example: In presentation virtualization (such as Terminal Services) the user interacts with a presentation of an application on their desktop. But the “real” application, OS, and physical layers behind the presentation are not on the desktop but on a server located somewhere else.
Presentation Layer
Key Definitions for Desktop Virtualization
Presentation Virtualization
In traditional remote access of server based applications, (Citrix Presentation Server, Microsoft Terminal Services) only presentation layer virtualization is used.
Presentation virtualization is also used for remote access of workstation hardware such as a blade PC in the data center.
Application Virtualization
In application virtualization, an application can be downloaded and run locally without special configuration of either the application or the client PC or its OS. The application interacts with an abstraction layer between it and the OS and machine layers.
Examples of application virtualization solutions include VMware View (ThinView), Citrix XenApp, and Microsoft App-V.
Desktop Virtualization
Desktop Virtualization uses both a Machine Virtualization layer for hosting PC VMs on a server and presentation virtualization for remote access of those virtual machines from the desktop.
Presentation Layer
Virtualization layers are not mutually exclusive
The different layers of virtualization can be combined for different desktop computing solutions. For example:
Desktop virtualization solutions combine presentation virtualization and PC machine virtualization on a hosting server.
Application virtualization and application presentation can also be combined with desktop virtualization – a virtual desktop machine can be dynamically provisioned with remote access and/or virtualized applications.
Application virtualization can also be applied to server hosted applications, making them co-exist on the same server more efficiently.
Connection broker software, such as what is available from Citrix and VMware, can connect individual users to different remote access solutions. For example, a user might be connected to a virtual desktop, a terminal services session, a virtualized application, or a remote blade PC depending on their needs and user profile.
Key Definitions for Desktop Virtualization
Desktop virtualization moves desktop processing and storage off the desktop
In desktop virtualization, a full instance of a desktop operating system (typically Windows) runs on a virtual machine that is hosted on a server and remote accessed from a client device (a PC, laptop, or thin client).
For the end user, the experience of the virtual desktop should be the same as using a local PC. For example, they will see and interact with Windows and their familiar applications. They may not even be aware that the applications are no longer executing on a local CPU and OS instance.
Access is managed through connection broker software. The broker connects the user with a specific virtual desktop. The most popular software for managing both virtual desktops and brokering are VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop .
Key Definitions for Desktop Virtualization
Desktop virtualization offers the best of both worlds: centralization plus full desktops for more types of users
Presentation virtualization solutions (such as Citrix application presentation) are well established. In fact Citrix has become synonymous not only with presentation virtualization but also with thin client hardware. Typically when an IT manager says, “We use Citrix” they are referring to terminal services presentation often via thin client. Benefits include centralized application management and reduced desk side support requirements.
However, presentation virtualization remains a niche solution. After more than a decade on the market, thin client/presentation solutions tend to be used mainly in areas where a narrow set of processing tasks are done on the desktop (such as a call center). Broader use knowledge workers continue to use full PC clients. Also, applications designed to run on a single machine don't always work well in an shared application environment and are inevitably deployed at the desktop on a PC.
Desktop virtualization extends the benefits of centralized management of applications and data from the traditional single task workers to knowledge workers. It does this by combining the benefits of a full PC desktop environment (for users and client applications) with the centralization benefits of a server based approach. This is a potential best of both worlds approach.
Key Definitions for Desktop Virtualization
Task Workers Only
Task +Knowledge Workers
Desktop virtualization adoption is expected to grow
Currently, desktop virtualization has been adopted by less than 5% of organizations.
Looking forward however, there is considerable interest in adopting virtual desktops.
A large number of organizations are waiting for the technology to mature. 2010 could see twice as many implementations as 2009.
Desktop Virtualization Adoption
Desktop virtualization works for a broad range of use cases
Desktop Virtualization Adoption
Process workers (customer service, claims and loan processing)
Data-entry workers (processing reservations, making order entries)
Wide range of connection types:
Stationary users (connecting using permanent LAN links)
Roaming users (on multiple permanent LANs)
Remote/Home users (use the same link/device to connect from multiple locations)
High-performance users who need local graphics processing (video / graphic designers)
Mobile users (significant offline use while traveling, wide variety of connections – LAN, WAN, dial-up, public WiFi)
The future: the ubiquitous desktop
Though they have different delivery frameworks, most major vendors in enterprise computing have the same vision of the future of the enterprise – the ubiquitous or persistent desktop. Here are some characteristics of this vision:
The end user owns a single desktop. That desktop is the same whether accessed on a LAN-based PC, a roaming laptop, an external home office PC, and even a handheld device. This is a continuation of a trend that began with roaming profiles.
Though this persistent desktop can be accessed from a variety of end points, it is created and managed from a centralized management point.
While access to the desktop roams, the desktop image itself is also not fixed. The desktop virtual machine can move from internal hosting servers to external services (the Cloud) and to individual PCs and laptops for offline access or to take advantage of local hardware.
Future of Desktop Virtualization
There are limitations to the current model
Desktop virtualization currently falls short of the ubiquitous desktop vision particularly in the area of mobility of the virtual machine image. In VDI models, VMs tend to be hosted on central servers and remote accessed from the desktop.
Desktop virtualization has many of the same advantages and limitations of traditional presentation virtualization. For example, central management of applications is a benefit of both, while latency of remote accessed applications and susceptibility to network outage is a limitation of both.
Moving an application that has network latency issues from terminal services to desktop virtualization will not improve the experience of that application.
Desktop virtualization solutions also typically require more storage and processing on the back end than traditional terminal services solutions.
Operating system/software licensing costs are also proving to be a challenge for adopters.
How Persistent Virtual Desktops Will Save Money
In a large enterprise, PCs are purchased in bulk but not always from the same vendor. This makes it necessary to maintain multiple configurations of software and operating systems (one for the Dells, one for the HPs, one for the white boxes, etc.)
With fully virtualized desktops, the apps and OS are configured for one virtual machine. PCs are either VM hosts or remote access terminals. Differences in PC configurations are rendered irrelevant.
Future of Desktop Virtualization
Virtual PCs have to become more mobile
While being centrally managed, the PC VM must be able to migrate from central infrastructure to the desktop or to external host seamlessly, depending on where the VM will perform best for the end users needs and circumstances.
Developments in this direction are promising:
VMware’s experimental “check out” feature where a managed PC VM can be downloaded to a laptop for offline use while still being synchronized with central images.
Plans for client side bare metal hypervisors (Intel partnering with both Citrix and VMware). The goal will be for PC VMs to run at near native performance when they are hosted on a PC or laptop.
Citrix’s provisioning server which can stream a desktop image and user configuration to both a physical or virtual machine. This could include streaming to a virtual machine on a client side hypervisor in the future.
Full PC VM mobility will begin to have a positive impact by 2011. Decision makers looking to benefit from these developments – for example, to apply desktop virtualization for mobile disconnected laptops – should plan 18 months out.
Future of Desktop Virtualization
Desktop virtualization is in the early days of adoption.
Adoption is expected to continue to grow in implementations and applicability to end user needs.
The value proposition is centralization of desktop and application deployment and management.
A centralized and virtualized approach to desktop management can be much more flexible and responsive. This has been the key value proposition for centralized solutions such as presentation virtualization in the past.
Consider desktop virtualization as a part of your desktop replacement strategy.
Desktop virtualization provides an opportunity to reap the management savings of centralization while serving a broader base of end users. Traditional remote access application presentation has not succeeded as desktop replacement technology beyond niche task workers.
Desktop virtualization is not for everyone.