Virtualisation will become the most disruptive technology to face the PC in a decade, according to new research by Gartner.
It reports that PC virtualisation technology is set to revolutionise the enterprise desktop by decoupling PC hardware and software, allowing multiple operating systems to run simultaneously on a single desktop.
Gartner claims virtualisation will enable IS departments to implement more efficient ICT support policies, achieve more cost-effective outsourcing contracts for PC support, and drive total cost of ownership savings in PC deployment.
It also claims that virtualisation will dramatically redefine the PC industry, removing product differentiation, and forcing vendors to compete purely on service and price.
Vice-president at Gartner, Brian Gammage, said: "PC virtualisation will achieve a broad appeal over the next five years. The technology has been used in niche applications for a number of years, but increased industry support from major players, such as Intel and Microsoft will rapidly move it to the mainstream. This will have significant ramifications for the PC hardware, software and wider ICT services industries."
Regarding user benefits, Gartner sees PC virtualisation as providing a short cut to deployment best practices. Users would be provided with two different environments. One that is unlocked for users to add devices and to install any software they choose, and alongside this would be a fully locked-down, highly managed, and well-understood environment, to which the IS organisation can securely deploy critical business applications. Therefore the IS department would retain full control over network security, while users can install and run new applications that may enhance their effectiveness, without increasing the burden on already beleaguered support staff.
According to Gartner, IS departments who are successful in the deployment of virtualization technology are also likely to swiftly review both ICT services and outsourcing procedures. PC virtualisation will reportedly assist in drawing clear lines between what is and is not managed by the IS organization.
The research company said the potentially huge benefits for users would create equally significant implications for the industry.
"Software vendors will need to become much more flexible in order to compete in this new landscape," Gammage said. "Changes in the way software is licensed are inevitable, as PC virtualization software will challenge current one-licence-per-user ratio. In the short term, some will see this as an opportunity to sell more licences: however, this will be harmful in the long run. Few software vendors have woken up to this deployment scenario, and there is currently little consensus on how they might respond. This is a wake-up call."
Gartner said that hardware vendors and component manufacturers would also be affected.
He predicted that the ultimate new standard for client computing would be a virtual platform based on software, not hardware.