Virtual desktops ripe for deployment, hindered by cost

Virtual desktops ripe for deployment, hindered by cost

One in five companies call desktop virtualization a "critical priority"

Similarly, VMware is creating a bare-metal hypervisor that runs on each user's machine yet gives IT a "golden image" that can be managed centrally. VMware's long-term goal is to merge the two concepts of hosted and local desktop virtualization, dynamically moving the desktop image back and forth between the device and data center, says Jerry Chen, VMware's senior director of enterprise desktop virtualization.

Neocleus, meanwhile, will release its full product in beta next month and is promising far better security than exists in most desktop environments today. In addition to separating personal and business computing into separate operating systems, each operating system will run in its own "bubble," which, if infected, could simply be deleted, preserving the integrity of the machine as a whole, the company says. Centralized management tools will let IT pros set policies preventing users from accessing particular devices or applications, and governing interactions between virtual machines.

Neocleus plans to charge between US$50 and $100 per desktop. The premium version of VMware View costs about US$250 per virtualized desktop, Chen says.

Running the numbers

To figure out the ROI for a desktop virtualization project, an IT shop has to take multiple factors into consideration. Virtualization might be used to extend the life of older desktops, resulting in up-front savings. On the other hand, a virtualization project might include purchasing of thin clients or other new devices. Additionally, a hosted desktop model requires servers or PC blades to host desktops and networked storage to support virtual machines.

Anecdotally, Forrester analysts have found that enterprises spend about $860 per user, plus network upgrades, to get a desktop virtualization project up and running in the first year.

Despite healthy revenue projections, the hosted virtual desktop market will experience "growing pains" throughout this year and early 2010, according to a Gartner research note. Costs savings amount to about 3% to 10% compared with a well-managed, secure desk-based PC, the analyst firm says.

"Most customers, particularly those hard-pressed because of economic conditions, will find it difficult justifying the additional capital needed for the infrastructure build-out," Gartner writes. "New and sizable investments in the areas of storage, networks, servers, power, cooling and other infrastructure will press organizations into early investments."

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