Desktop Virtualisation Comes Of Age, But Why Did It Take So Long?

Desktop Virtualisation

There’s never been a better time for enterprises to exploit desktop virtualisation. CIOs and CFOs can jump in with both feet safe in the knowledge that their investment is sound – the cloud infrastructure is ready, the data centre is ready, the workforce and their devices are ready – and it’s a natural progression from server virtualisation (and who doesn’t do that now?). Yet why did it take so long?

According to The 451 Group, the market for the Desktop Virtualisation is estimated at US$5.6 billion by 2016. This includes a range of disciplines such as server-, client- and cloud-based hosting; session-based computing; application virtualisation; and management.

While IDC’s Brett Waldman, research manager, Client Virtualisation Software, says that the virtual client computing market is going to grow from $2.4 billion in 2011 to $3.5 billion in 2016. “Despite many organisations looking to outsource virtual desktops today, the rise in mobility is actually transforming the demand as we speak, toward applications and data. For the enterprise users, hosted desktops represent a new world where your workspace is available anywhere, anytime, and not subject to hardware failure/loss,” he explains.

While definitions differ between the analysts, one thing is clear – the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) market is growing fast with a huge potential over the next 12-36 months. So why did it take so long to arrive – the heralded ‘thin computing revolution’ of the 90s was a bit ambitious, so why now? Was it too early?

In truth, the infrastructure, cost and security issues weren’t insignificant, and back then perhaps it was too radical a concept. Now, over a decade later the world has moved on, consumer devices are blurring with corporate equipment, cloud computing is now pervasive and the IT approach is more user-centric – looking at how to deliver a better service to users.

As more and more companies turn towards remote working and BYOD environments, plus more users run multiple OS’s and devices, the complexity and costs of managing a company’s IT infrastructure has increased drastically. The time is right to reap those cost savings, remove hardware dependency, and delivery a 21st century network to employees. In this piece we look at the key areas for managers and directors to focus on: mobility, security, manageability and productivity.

Desktop Virtualisation

As the take-up of server virtualisation has accelerated, so virtual desktops are destined to follow. Gartner’s Chris Wolf does see serious momentum — and significant room for growth. “The market penetration is roughly 1.5 per cent of the total enterprise desktop market. We expect that to grow to 8 to 10 per cent penetration by 2015.”

Today, VDI is an important element of cloud computing and virtualisation technology. Desktop Virtualisation can be defined as a process of virtually extending a desktop screen to run multiple applications, platforms and operating systems. While server virtualisation leverages server resources, desktop virtualisation allows businesses to create virtual desktops that efficiently manage business processes, enable device flexibility and lower costs. By using a powerful remote desktop (RDP) service, businesses can take advantage of this innovation and move virtualisation to the next level.

Mobility

The BYOD trend is to a certain extent fuelling the demand for VDI. If organisations were considering implementing virtual desktops anyway, now with BYOD concerns they are pushing through such projects to ensure secure control over their apps, data and infrastructure.

One significant benefit of VDI is the ability to offer users mobile access to their desktop wherever they are on the globe and whichever device they are using. Virtual servers seamlessly deliver applications and virtual desktops to any computer or mobile device. Remote desktop technology forms the backbone to a company’s BYOD infrastructure – you can effectively manage BYOD devices, apps and access privileges across the network.

At the same time, network security is maintained at the highest level. You can serve applications to mobile devices based on the IP, username or MAC address. By mobilising your business processes, you can achieve higher productivity and improved buy-in from employees.

While laptops ruled the last decade, smart phones and tablets are dominating present-day technology. In every company it’s not just top management that have multiple company and personal devices. By implementing a BYOD policy, businesses can improve security and productivity and reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO).

Such a policy will allow employees to log on to the corporate network securely from home, office or while travelling around. By doing so, employees are always available in the network, therefore with a work-from-home concept, productivity levels are sure to increase. Don’t forget people are often fiercely OS and brand loyal, so Apple and Android fans must be accommodated.

Security

Security is a major concern in a BYOD environment. While companies need to implement high security policies to prevent unauthorised access of data, employee privacy should also be prioritised. Implementing cloud-based virtualisation concepts allows businesses to secure their networks. By using a powerful hypervisor, you can enjoy quick application delivery across multiple platforms and devices.

Network security is an important concern for every organisation. A VDI environment allows businesses to use cutting edge technologies to secure networks from online threats, intrusions and data crashes. Higher levels of security measures are incorporated to create a secure and reliable infrastructure. Installing updates, security patches and implementing disaster recovery methods becomes easier.

Agility & Productivity

Another significant advantage of VDI is the introduction of agility into business processes. A VDI enables you to instantly deploy applications and dynamically update them. Imagine a development team working on a project; if the client suggests a different platform, administrators need to install related software on every machine. With a VDI environment, you get the luxury of installing applications on multiple machines instantly. By integrating business processes, you can create highly intuitive solutions.

Manageability & The Connection Broker

We’ve looked at the benefits and challenges of moving towards a VDI environment. One vital aspect that takes up 40% of the complexity and functionality of virtual networks is a connection broker. This is a resource manager that facilitates connections between virtual devices, databases and other computing resources. It is a vital entity that decides what and how each resource can access data pieces, effectively controlling database and remote desktop access to the end user.

When choosing a connection broker companies must ensure it is up to the job – they are normally vendor-independent and support different virtualisation platforms. Access control rules are established by this connection broker so that end users can access resources based on their privileges. The connection broker authenticates and maps users to access controls using directory services of the server OS. Simply put, the end user logs in to the network using the connection broker and it assigns a virtual desktop to that user.

In Summary

Shrugging off the financial, technical and psychological barriers from a decade ago, desktop virtualisation is at the start of a boom period. Managers and architects need to understand the issues surrounding mobility, security, manageability and productivity for a successful implementation. In a few years’ time it will be the norm for delivering desktops to any device using a hybrid (public/private) cloud infrastructure.

Charlie Williams

Charlie Williams joined 2X Software in January 2013, bringing with him more than 10 years of senior leadership experience in both the business to business and business to consumer technology markets. Before joining 2X, Charlie served as Head of Sales with Uniblue Systems and held senior marketing, sales and business development roles at Channel Source Direct. At 2X, Charlie will be responsible for the global go-to-market strategy of the 2X product line. A graduate of Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, Charlie earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Business Management & Marketing with a certificate in International Business.