SMB virtualisation: A case for desktop virtualisation?

SMB virtualisation: A case for desktop virtualisation?

Is there a reason for SMBs to take-up desktop virtualisation? Roundtable attendees debate the pros and cons

While the case for server virtualisation in the SMB market is intensifying, many partners around the table were less convinced about short-term take-up of desktop virtualisation.

However, the onslaught of consumer-oriented, cut-back devices, like the iPhone and netbook, was changing usage models and opening up longer-term opportunities to have a centralised desktop conversation, Accucom’s Roy Pater claimed. IDC’s Jean-Marc Annonier agreed mobility was driving new discussions around desktop management and access.

“In our research, we’ve shown that for a lot of small businesses to be successful, you need to have many smaller offices, because you can’t grow if you’re only based in Sydney. Automatically, that brings up the need for remote access,” he said.

PC Nation’s Adam Nixon was witnessing increasing interest in desktop virtualisation among its hosting and managed services clients because it offered ease of management and better control. But TCT’s Robert Brown claimed set-up costs for VDI were still too prohibitive for customers with less than 100 or 200 nodes.

Until the cost of a virtual desktop was on par, or cheaper than a physical unit, take-up would remain low, VMware’s Steven Gross said.

“If a customer has a 20-person shop and they need five to be mobile, there’s nothing stopping you from building XP or Windows 7 images and doing direct connections,” he said. “But moving forward, the differences in server hardware and the higher processing and memory will change the cost metrics around VDI. Density of servers will increase dramatically as they’re being architected for these higher density environments.

“I think we are in a year of change for centralised desktops. Going back 6-12 months ago, the discussion was that it cost 120 per cent of the cost of a physical desktop to stand up a virtual desktop. When you get to a point at time when we can deliver the VDI at a lower cost than a physical environment, and provide all the benefits, it becomes quite straightforward. We are at that tipping point now.”

Alongside the cost argument, Accucom’s Pater said centralised desktop take-up would also eventually gain popular because of infrastructure and security complexity.

“It’s becoming fairly complex to set-up even a two- or five-user site with base infrastructure,” he pointed out. “Users are getting sick and tired of it. That will drive it back towards things like the netbook and terminals they can just operate on, and you do whatever is required in the back-end, as long as it’s reliable.

“Discussions are more in the back-end today, but you can see this is going more and more into the front-end as customers realise their problems are lying with the rich device on the desk.”

Once historical challenges around running rich applications like video and voice on centralised desktops are addressed, IT providers could expect to see more take-up, Pater said.

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