Editorial: Playing ahead of the curve

Every now and again a technology comes along that, to some extent, sells itself. In recent years, the best example has been server virtualisation and many in the channel have had a great time closing deals based on this “no-brainer”. As usual in this industry, every man and his dog jumps quickly on the gravy train and skills that were recently seen as a market differentiator become commoditised before you can say ‘hypervisor’.

While server consolidation and virtualisation is still a conversation opener for many resellers, others are looking to rebuild their value proposition with ‘the next big thing’. And it’s no surprise that one of their major hopes is another form of virtualisation – this time focused on the desktop. But although mere mention of ‘virtual desktops’ is sure to get the attention of customers that have enjoyed successful transitions into the world of virtual servers, the truth is that names are pretty much were the similarities end.

As the pages ahead will show there are plenty of organisations dipping a toe in the virtual desktop waters; but not very many have made any real commitments, and even fewer are willing to talk about it. All of which leaves the market with something of a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario – nobody wants to deploy until they see some broader adoption, but that broader adoption is unlikely to happen until there are compelling large-scale case studies.

Nothing gets a technology sale over the line quite as easily as the ability to show a customer that deployment will save them money, and one of the major problems that sets virtual desktops apart from virtual servers is the lack of simple cost benefit. You can make a case that it might deliver cost reduction over four years but that’s unlikely to seal many deals, especially in the current economic environment.

That’s not to say that there isn’t money to be made. For those who can treat the needs of their customers on a case by case basis and understand where virtual desktops is the right solution, there will be good opportunities to win attractive business ahead of the curve. You will find some discussion of where these opportunities lie in the coverage of our recent round table (see the roundtable here).

One of the aims of this event was to find out whether the industry believes virtual desktops will eventually lead to the death of the humble PC. I think it’s fair to summarise that our panel thought this unlikely but, as we move to an increasingly mobile working environment, there can be no doubt that greater flexibility in how, where and when we can access our applications will become increasingly important. And as virtual desktop technologies continue to mature, there will be plenty of opportunity for the channel to help customers make it work for them.

The Virtual Desktop supplement is sponsored by itX and Citrix

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