Virtually unstoppable

Virtually unstoppable

While the server virtualisation push has ridden a wave of good publicity, the limelight is starting to shift towards virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). As a result, more and more corporations are considering how they can leverage VDI in business.

The server virtualisation train has already bulleted its way into corporations globally and is increasingly pivotal to many IT strategies. Its market penetration has been solid and it is delivering significant cost savings and environmental benefits to those on-board.

But now many are eagerly awaiting the take-off of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), a technology that promises to fundamentally change the way we view the ubiquitous desktop. Is the mainstream ready to get on-board with VDI or will it be relegated to niche customer verticals?

Leading vendors, VMware, Citrix and Microsoft, believe while we're not jetting into the great blue yet, many corporations are enthusiastically strapping themselves in for the VDI ride.

"It's the next evolution of what VMware virtualisation provides. I wouldn't expect that it has the penetration of the server side because that's where we as a company have been focused," VMware vice-president of South Pacific, Paul Harapin, said. "But certainly if I look at it from an interest perspective, and what our customers and our people are spending their time on with their customers, virtual desktop has huge momentum."

Citrix A/NZ manager of systems engineering, Toby Knight, said the company was undertaking several desktop virtualisation pilot studies with large corporations, particularly financial institutions, telecommunications companies and government.

"We're really seeing that because there is a big problem with the desktop today," Knight said.

"Best case scenario is that you're still going through this massive cost every three to five years where you need to refresh the hardware, rollout a new version of the operating system, and go through the remediation testing. So what we are seeing is a big interest in new desktop virtualisation technologies to mitigate that cost."

Taking a more cautious approach, Microsoft's director of server and tools, Martin Gregory, noted that less than 10 per cent of servers and less than 1 per cent of desktops were using virtualisation technology. Nonetheless, he was optimistic about VDI's future.

"The availability of high performance, commodity x86 server hardware, coupled with the need to reduce costs and environmental footprint, and the move to a dynamic IT environment, can make virtualisation a more attractive proposition," he said.

Indeed, this thrust is seemingly supported across the board with numerous vendors, integrators, distributors and resellers looking to book a seat on the VDI vehicle. AppSense vice-president of sales Australasia, Sean Walsh, said there was a sense of cooperation in the market. After all the noise of past months we are starting to see some consolidation that will lead to a rapid lift-off.

"Our anecdotal evidence, based on talking to partners, customers and businesses, is that it's still relatively early days on the widespread adoption of VDI solutions,"he said. "But there are a lot of people looking at it, researching it, investigating it. There are a lot of partners talking about it and obviously there are vendors talking about it. And there's a lot of backing behind it as well. It's not like one organisation has just come up with something that's weird and whacky. Everyone is doing it."

In one recent report Gartner analysts predicted virtual desktops will be a "more-complete, better and lower-cost deployment option" that could entice many corporations into doing it with vigour come 2009.

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