Virtual desktops

Virtual desktops

"The rubber still isn't hitting the road in terms of good case studies or compelling reasons why users are going to fall over themselves." - itX's Greg Newham

"The rubber still isn't hitting the road in terms of good case studies or compelling reasons why users are going to fall over themselves." - itX's Greg Newham

Mark Gluckman, Regal IT (MG): The other thing you have to consider is that laptops are now $700 and getting cheaper all the time. Your biggest competitor is that people know they can get a new laptop; that’s your grey market.

KM: Laptop shipments exceeded desktops shipments globally for the first time this year and, by the way, smartphone shipments are about the same as laptop shipments so this whole idea that we’re going to move towards thin clients in a homogenous Microsoft type of world goes out of the window in the next 10 years. Instead, people are going to bring whatever device they want for a variety of reasons – change of generation being one of the big ones. Gen Ys have a preferred device and expect to be able to work on it; we are also using a lot more third parties in external contracts. It’s an Internet world that’s about standards.

MG: Operating systems are what we’re going to move away from but we’re still going to need to deal with disconnected users. People will want to work away from home without being connected to the Internet.

RW: I agree with what you’re saying, and laptops are really important, but I think there’s another point of view on that. The world is becoming more connected, not less connected, and everybody is running a 3G device of some sort. 3G is more than enough for a virtual desktop. Yes it’s true that people are becoming more mobile but they’re also becoming more connected.

MM: Children know that if they want an application they can go to the Internet rather than looking to see what’s installed on the PC.

MG: So why go to virtual desktops? Why not just run a browser and present it as an app?

MM: Because they’re home users rather than corporate users. We haven’t had any requests from a corporate entity to go to a Google model because there’s no personalisation.

KM: The [NSW] Department of Education has 1.2 million Gmail users. It’s my primary email client now. I was talking to one of the banks, which was looking to move part of its staff over to Gmail. I was horrified but you can’t say there’s no corporate interest.

RW: People are paranoid about security these days in corporate environments because they’ve seen so many people get burned. If the wrong email ends up in the wrong hands at the wrong point of time you’ve got another Enron. You can’t compare the security concerns of schoolchildren and the corporate world. If you go to a bank it has 1500 applications and the majority of those are homegrown. You can’t shift that to Google.

KM: The problem with virtual desktop is that it’s rooted in the old world of the desktop. In the next 10 years that will change dramatically – Google is one direction, I’m not saying it’s going to happen immediately but we are starting to see some movement. When you take the traditional image, break it up into its four layers and ask yourself how to do that, it has nothing to do with thin clients or virtual desktop. The question becomes what technologies I use to roll that out. When you take that strategic view of it, you have a really good place to start. If you talk to organisations with large, well managed full desktop, they’ve already got to the point where user data is separate and they’re starting to use application virtualisation to pull that out of the OS. The last puzzle in a full desktop is how quickly you can provision a basic OS onto a machine. About a third of my clients are halfway down that track already without going to the dramatic shift of a thin client or virtual desktop approach.

FM: [NSW] DET [Department of Education and Training] certainly changed my mind about how things get done. We were having a discussion about technology at home versus technology in the classroom and I couldn’t help but think ‘to Hell with what they’re doing in the classroom, look at what they’re doing in the schoolyard’. How are we going to be able to guarantee delivery of everything on demand to every device? There’s no one technology that can do that so you have to split it into individual components and use your best judgement.

KM: Device diversity is going to be a massive problem. Today the only solution is to go to an SOE model.

RW: I disagree because we [Citrix] don’t want to be specific to anything other than the ability to deliver something on a screen. You can go to YouTube and we’ve demonstrated virtual desktop on an iPhone. We’ll run it on anything – [Blackberry] Bolds, Linux, Macs – to provide an XP or Vista desktop anywhere on anything.

KM: The problem is that applications are tailored to a large screen, a mouse and a keyboard. As soon as you put that on a Blackberry Bold you are scrolling around to get things into the screen.

MM: It’s going to be a long time before one of these [smartphones] is a corporate device that a company will be happy for their staff to sit down and work on because they’re just not user-friendly and you can’t be productive enough.

RW: There’s a time and a place, such as sitting in an airport lounge, where a smartphone screen is sufficient. It isn’t what you would use eight hours a day but if you are mobile and need to get something done it works fine. It’s that ability to go from one to the other that people want.

FM: I agree with one addition. Every user has a work profile and that will dictate what’s best for them at any particular time. The one thing I would add though is that the user was asked to compromise with thin clients and they’re no longer prepared to do that. If they’ve chosen a device, they want you to deliver to it. It’s on demand and if I choose to use it on a mobile device then it’s my choice but I won’t accept anything less than full functionality on my desktop.

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