To be, or not to be?

To be, or not to be?

That is the question when it comes to virtual desktops.TREVOR CLARKE reports

Lights, cameras… action? Not just yet. While the stage has been set, and the IT crowd hushed in anticipation of the virtual desktop play, corporations haven’t rushed to adopt the much-hyped sibling of industry darling, server virtualisation.

In fact, it’s fair to say the vast majority of organisations, with a few exceptions and some tantalising previews, are still to get through dress rehearsals.

“If you look at virtual desktops the uptake is very low,” IDC research manager for IT spending, Jean-Marc Annonier, said. “It’s less than five per cent and with the error of margin it’s probably even lower than that.

“We are looking at probably 15 per cent in pilot and probably the same number in evaluations. All up we are probably looking at 30 per cent of businesses at least thinking about it or testing it. A large proportion of the market has no plan and, I would suspect, is not aware of what virtual desktops are. I think there’s a lot of education to be done.”

Anecdotally, many in the industry suggest the local virtual desktop market is full of interest and trials are being carried out behind closed doors. Still, to date, there’s very little action in the spotlight.

“There are a few pilots being run and about to be run; there’s certainly a lot of interest,” Fujitsu infrastructure services group manager, Perry Delaney, said. “Most of the stuff that we’ve done doesn’t show that much of a cost advantage over a standard desktop because there are a lot of intangible costs associated with training as you move the infrastructure from the front end into the back end.

“Where we are doing pilots is in computerising areas of the business which may not already be computerised. We haven’t really piloted it into a general office environment or front-end office environment. Customers are looking at it for call centres, for retail environments. I think IT departments are kind of interested in it. I would suggest they are poking a stick at it at the moment to see if it moves.”

Sonnet managing director, Baden Wright, agreed and predicted there would need to be a generational change in order for greater adoption to take place.

“I’ve done [virtual desktop] pilots and it’s like everything else; people were apprehensive about server virtualisation three or four years ago,” he said. “I think there are still a lot of questions about performance and overhead. They are quite hard to dispel in a lot of the conversations and we need to see a few more baby boomers leave the workforce.

“I think we’ll see a huge uptake in the next 18 months and we are getting onto the front of the curve right now.”

Despite the listless current market, there are signs Wright will be proved correct. Put another way, the show could well be about to begin.

“We have some very big quotes out for it and we are looking at between anything from 1200- to 10,000-seat installations. The advantage comes in 150+ user sites where software distribution absolutely canes the LAN.

“I think right now we need a simple competitive model, and it has to be comparable in price to the existing desktop. You can’t up-sell desktop; it’s a commodity.

“We have probably written in excess of a dozen proposals in the last four months with virtual desktops in them. The interest is there but it’s going to take time.” For others the time is ripe now; Oriel virtualisation practice manager, Rodney Haywood, claimed the curtain was in the process of being raised.

“We’ve thankfully seen uptake and the start of the wave that we were probably expecting to occur a little earlier,” he said. “In the last four weeks we’ve sold more than 240 licenses for VMware VDM [virtual desktop manager] and we probably have about 900 possible desktops under pilot at the moment across a couple of organisations. So we’re finally starting to see things happening, which is excellent.”

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