Despite a steady stream of virtual desktop deployments over the past year, talk still revolves around that big breakthrough — the point at which VDI reaches critical mass to become the next big advancement in data center operations.
And while limiting factors like high start-up costs, complex infrastructure and user resistance are still prevalent, VDI backers may have a trump card waiting in the wings. What if desktop images could be loaded onto wireless devices of all stripes, giving users the ability to access operating environments no matter where they are or what hardware they are using?
Analyst Dave Bartoletti says this writing is already on the wall. As the cost to support the growing universe of netbooks, smartphones and tablets starts to hit home, transitioning to a single desktop environment starts to look pretty good. Not only are patches and upgrades easier to manage, but security becomes less of a burden now that the entire operating environment of the enterprise has been streamlined.
Key pieces for this scenario are already coming into place. Earlier this week, Virtual Computer teamed up with Lenovo to put the NxTop client virtualization solution onto select ThinkPad T and X series laptops, as well as ThinkCentre A and M desktops. The solution is designed to ease the cost of VDI deployment by limiting the amount of server, storage and networking resources to support it.
Another major development is VMware’s recent release of a new View client for the iPad, available as a free download from Apple’s App Store. With it, iPad users are able to access virtual desktops, applications and data anywhere that a wireless connection is available. The image is optimized for the iPad’s hi-res Multi-Touch interface, alleviating one of the main concerns of tablet computing: poor interaction with desktop-oriented environments.
Many top CIOs see VDI as the easiest way to stem the inevitable tide of mobile devices. As Kevin Summers, CIO of Whirlpool Corp., put it to Network World recently, demand for multi-device computing simply grew too big to ignore. So rather than trying to resist it, the company decided to exercise as much control as it could by offering VDI services governed by clear-cut policies, such as full access to wipe data should a device be lost.
To date, VDI has been described as the natural extension of server, storage and network virtualization — a simple add-on to all the investment aimed at streamlining the data center. That proved to be only a marginally convincing argument.
But tapping VDI to accommodate the next generation of hardware infrastructure? That’s another matter. It may be a defensive move, but it may just be the pebble that tips the scales for desktop virtualization.