Nadia Cameron, ARN (NC): What are the key benefits to rolling out a virtualised desktop environment?
Rob Ritchie, Rodd Consulting (RR): The main comments from customers are to do with management, control and security. Desktop virtualisation tightens things up for them and they like that component. If you can do that and carry some cost benefits around power consumption and cost of actual desktops, compared with terminals, then it’s quite a good story.
Shadi Haddad, Ethan Group (SH): I think we’re seeing a huge focus around centralised management, but also the portability. Being able to have a desktop anywhere – whether it’s in the home or via a web browser – is key. I think the whole industry is moving towards being able to offer services anywhere, and even stuff like software-as-a-service to thin clients as well.
Peter Levett, Thomas Duryea (PL): The funny thing is people have gotten so used to the traditional desktop, but when you sit down and talk to customers, you’re deploying an individual server for each user in your environment, which doesn’t have any form of redundancy – it’s called the desktop computer. You’re not backing up the data, you’re not managing them and you can’t even find them all of the time. There is no way businesses treat their server environments with that lack of respect they got away with around desktops. All of a sudden, technology has grown to meet that in many ways.
The management features are a massive plus for administrators managing these environments. More often than not, these are the guys involved in the decision-making process and they see the user experience in a desktop virtualisation world is better, the productivity is better, and the manageability is better. Now good technology is available, and as time goes on, it’s becoming easier to consolidate more and more virtual instances into less hardware, which makes it more feasible to adopt and a no-brainer. If you look at server consolidation now, it’s very hard for anyone not to see the value in it – it’s that black and white. That’s what is starting to evolve around virtual desktops.
NC: Given server, application and storage virtualisation are all accepted practice, has that validated the desktop virtualisation argument?
Sean Murphy, Nexus IT (SM): In an SMB-focused world, most of these guys are still catching up. We are still doing virtualisation 101 in the core. A desktop focus around VDI is a way for some of the more sophisticated SMBs to jump into a standardised/SOE administration environment in a cost-effective way, or to conquer a tyranny of distance, where they have sparse IT resources in disparate places. This allows them to get over this cost-effectively. But you can’t necessarily go down the storage or server virtualisation path because SMB don’t have the full Citrix infrastructure, or SANs yet. Right now, there are certainly great benefits around desktop virtualisation if someone wants an SOE or secure desktop or to solve a distance problem and the costs stack up.
David Wakeman, VMware (DW): Is it just cost, or technology skill? What are the main barriers?
SM: With desktops in particular, what do you do with 80 OEM licences? People don’t buy 80 thin clients at once, so the business case isn’t so strong and they will time out a bunch of different devices. Also, is their network good enough today to deal with it? There are a whole bunch of things we take for granted in enterprise where network and storage works, but even in a 100-desktop environment, have you got the storage to put that into the core? You need to have a driving reason other than ‘doing good IT’ to make the ROI case work.
Tony Wilkinson, Technical Architecture Solutions (TW): The two predominant reasons we’re seeing driving VDI are business process outsourcing, which is all around protecting your data and recording what’s going offshore; and remote access and environments where you want minimal operating parts, such as mines or underground. As more and more gets brought into the datacentre, that will evolve. There is a user experience deficiency in VDI still, but that’s certain sub-sections of the market, which should improve over time. These include deficiencies around refresh rates on screen, multimedia and softphones.