Hosted virtual desktops will become less costly over time as vendors develop better management technologies, Gartner says.
At Scottsdale Community College, Fennell installed XenDesktop and other Citrix technologies both to virtualize college-owned desktops and provide remote access to students and teachers with their own devices. Previously, some students had to travel to campus even when they didn't have class, just so they could use certain applications. "Our students are just beside themselves. They absolutely love it," Fennell says.
In addition, patching desktops is easier and the college is extending the life of some older desktops by treating them as thin clients. The college can support 500 concurrent users on 12 physical servers, but is looking to scale that number up significantly.
"We needed something that would poise us to spend our money more wisely than just replacing black boxes," Fennell says. "We wanted a strategy that would not only update our technology but at the same time increase users' access."
While Fennell expects to break even in two years, it might take longer for a private enterprise undergoing a similar project because Scottsdale Community College receives an educational discount.
HP officials, who are selling blade PCs bundled with Citrix virtualization software, acknowledge that virtualization typically involves more upfront cost than a PC refresh, but say many customers start reaping financial benefits after little more than a year.
"The industry thought this would take off faster than it has, and I think any of the players involved would tell you that," says Dan Nordhues, director of marketing for blade clients at HP. "We're seeing indicators that this is moving from the early adopter phase to more mainstream."