Many IT executives remember mainframe and midrange computing solutions. Installation, administration and updates were all done back in the datacenter. Devices were put on staff members’ desks and were useful through many application and system lifecycles without requiring administration, updating or changes. These executives would like to recapture this environment without losing the benefits of a responsive, graphical desktop environment. Desktop virtualization makes this possible.
There are a number of other benefits this approach offers. Pools of virtual desktops would minimize loss of productivity and potential customer dissatisfaction in the case of a failure. If a PC fails, staff would be able to easily move to another PC and complete important tasks.
Work environments can easily be created and provisioned for newcomers to the organization’s staff. Secure, limited environments can be created for partners and consultants. Administrative tasks, such as installation of operating system or application updates, can be done back in the datacenter without requiring IT staff to spend time at each desktop system. This centralized approach reduces the overall staff-related costs of administration and operation of personal computers. Studies often show that these, not hardware and software, are the major costs of operating PCs.
With the help of an intelligent, graphical management portal, any of the virtual desktops or objects they contain can be discovered and easily managed.
The net result is a more agile, more flexible, more highly secure environment.
Why aren't virtual desktops everywhere?
Here, in a nutshell, are a few of the reasons that desktop virtualization hasn't simply become the way client systems are deployed everywhere:
- Good enough is good enough: (Golden Rule of IT # 4) causes organizations to stay with the tools they're using even though they're no longer the best way for staff members to work.
- Inertia: This is a variation of #1. IT administrators have learned (through painful experience at times) how to make Windows, Mac OS X and other desktop environments work and how to address common problems. While other approaches might be better, IT administrators believe it would take time to master these tools and make them support the organization's workloads. Since they're fearful about losing their jobs to someone, somewhere else in the world, they're going to stay with what they know until overwhelming evidence is offered supporting something new.
- Staff fear loss of control: The organization's staff has had control of their own desktop environments since Windows was first launched back in November 1985 (26 years ago), they fear losing control. The heavy handed, one-size fits all, way some desktop virtualization solutions have been rolled out have become legend. Stories about staff not being allowed to place photos of their family, beloved pets or favorite sporting events on the desktop; not being allowed to play background music while they worked or other restrictions can be found all over the network. When this approach was taken, general staff and IT are soon at war. If history is a guide, the IT staff usually loses in the end.
- New technology not "invisible:" how staff worked with their desktop systems changed significantly when their environments were virtualized. Sometimes that meant that typical functions, such as cut and past across applications, stopped working. Other times basic functions that staff had come to rely on became either unavailable or worked in some other way.
- There are front-end costs: organizations have already factored in all of the costs to support their desktops. Adding something new, no matter how much better it makes the environment, still adds costs on the front end. The people who make the decisions are measured on front-end costs, not the overall costs to the organization. That's the reason that some ignore the significant back-end savings the use of virtual desktops offer.
NComputing hopes that the combination of its virtual desktop platform and its N-series desktop hardware will make the use of virtual desktops so easy and cost effective that organizations will be driven to adopt it quickly. It hopes that this approach will overcome the costs and complexity of similar offerings from Citrix, Microsoft and VMware. After seeing demonstrations of the company's technology at events, I think that they're on to something.