Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

Summary: Desktop virtualization, arguably, offers better reliability, enhanced security and better management. Why haven't organizations flocked to this new technology?

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John Glendenning, Virtual Computer's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Business Development, and I had a very interesting conversation about Desktop Virtualization in general and where his company's product, NxTop, is enjoying a great deal of success.

During that discussion we covered quite a bit of territory. We ran out of time long before we ran out of interesting topics to discuss.  Here, in a nutshell, are a few of the reasons that desktop virtualization hasn't simply become the way client systems are deployed everywhere:

  1. Good enough is good enough: (Golden Rule of IT # 4) causes organiztions to stay with the tools they're using even though they're no longer the best way to offer staff members computing tools.
  2. 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 they're using work.  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 job to someone somewhere else in the world doing this work remotely, they're going to stay with what they know.
  3. 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 of their own desktop environment.  The heavy handed, one size fits all, way some desktop virtualization solutions have been rolled out have become legend.  Soon general staff and IT are at war.  When this happens, the IT staff usually loses in the end.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

I could go on and one, but I think you get the gist of the conversation.

I've been watching Virtual Computer for quite some time, since I stumbled on their "coming out of stealth party" at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas in 2007 and got a unexpected tour of their product demos. I think that their strong focus on using virtualization to create a secure, reliable, manageable desktop environments rather than merely focusing on virtualization for its own sake makes a great deal of sense. Furthermore, they've developed ways for locked-down enterprise applications to co-exist with open, personal environments that would resolve many of the issues I've just mentioned.

As with other players in the desktop virtualization space, they are challenged to get the message about how their solution works to everyone and so, the fear, uncertainty and doubt continues.

Topics: Virtualization, Hardware

About

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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23 comments
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  • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

    Reason #1 - the user experience is complete rubbish. It's slow and jerky. Until someone can show us a virtual desktop experience that is as good as an actual desktop experience, then IT departments will be too scared to implement for fear of failure. Plus, it still needs to beat desktops on price... hmmm, so don't show us one that works yet costs 3 times the cost of an actual desktop and support.
    factory4
    • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

      @factory4 What technology are you using? When a virtual machine is running on a local machine (using today's processors), the experience is just like running directly on physical hardware. There are at least 3 different technologies used today that could offer a "virtualized desktop." Using the wrong one for the application can cause the type of performance you've mentioned. Using the proper one, on the other hand, can make it appear quite different.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky
    • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

      @factory4

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      filhomarques
  • #6: Microsoft tax

    The Microsoft penalty for VDI (especially on a thin client) makes it a *lot* harder to justify to the beancounters. My firm would have moved forward two years ago but the extra licensing made the economics of the move fail.
    scripter
    • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

      @scripter Microsoft's licensing and pricing often are mentioned as an inhibitor. This has caused some organizations to select different tools.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky
  • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

    I thought I had missed out on some new definition of virtualization, but factory4 helped confirm that I still understand it. I used to setup virtual environments all the time for testing, and do you know what is great about virtualization? Nothing! It runs like shit, no matter how many resources you provide it.
    yodatech
    • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

      @yodatech The concept of "virtualization" is made up of seven layers of technology, each focused on one part of the stack that makes up an application. If the wrong approach is selected for the work, the performance is likely to be less than expected or optimal.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky
  • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

    I don't think that companies are worried about losing control or setting up desktops(#'s 2 & 3). These are controlled through policies and work in security terms much like a traditional desktop. I think the main reasons VDI has been slow to take over is primarily the costs to get started. For larger companies it makes sense to spend on this to reduce hardware and support costs over the long haul but for small to mid sized companies it does not. It took traditional virtualization many years to become the norm for companies to adopt. I think the same will be true for VDI.
    Cyberpyr8
  • I use VMs on the desktop: Here are my reasons for slow adoption

    What isn't a problem generally:
    Speed. On modern multi-core systems I get great performance.
    What is:
    Hardware integration is complicated. Users who need to hookup cameras, scanners and other hardware may run into latency issues particularly if you have to virtualize high-speed usb connections and that data has to travel over ethernet.
    DevGuy_z
    • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

      @DevGuy_z You've pointed out an issue I often see. The word "virtualization" is equated to the use of virtual machine software. There are other virtualization technologies that might be a better fit for specific applications.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky
  • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

    The economics of a full business VDI desktop with all the support for peripherals are not attractive enough for upgrade opportunities.
    The benefits have not yet outweighed the associated cost of VDI. However with some of the newer storage virtualization technologies this may change.
    amitkrg
  • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

    The random BSoD's I get when I attempt to connect to my PVD would certainly dampen my enthusiasm.
    ejhonda
  • The history of centralisation

    In the late 1970s dumb terminals clustered around servers. Then somebody discovered a smart terminal was better than a dumb terminal. IBM didn't buy in, then tried to rectify its mistake with a technology upgrade. But the market had tasted freedom and walked away. IBM became a software company.
    The little worlds went to free-standing smart PCs; the big world went networks and internet, each had the best of both, and it was good.
    But profit comes from innovation and change, so good has to change, and in an innovative way it changes back to centralisation for all the original reasons. So thin clients (much catchier name than dumb terminal) are the way to go - until thin means dumb and server means mainframe Then we go round again - better thin clients start to take the load off the mainf-oops server and offer their own USPs and they standardise and ....
    PassingWind
    • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

      @PassingWind It appears that you're focused on access virtualization and the use of thin-clients. That approach is useful for some applications and not all that good for others. The proper selection of technology makes a big difference.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky
  • Woah - easy tiger...

    These 5 reasons are valid reasons - but desktop virtualisation covers more than simply VDI and it seems as if you're all pretty much confusing Desktop Virtualisation with being only-and-ever "VDI". And then some pretty bad experiences of VDI by the sounds of it.

    Full and open and honest - I've used VirtualComputer's NxTop product a great deal for customers - and used it in implementations that have looked at VDI and found it does not fit their working model.

    To put this into context VirtualComputer's solution is a client side hypervisor. It is not "VDI" (i.e. sessions running on a remote server) - but VMs running on a client device. If it is to be classed as VDI the ''i" in VDI is much smaller. You need a central server to control and distribute the VMs, but the VMs run locally to the device.

    So - in Factory4's valid criticism of poorly implemented VDI - "slow screen refresh" is not an issue with VC's implementation. Likewise for @scripter - you don't need additional Microsoft licenses to make this happen - a standard select/enterprise license would do you just fine - which in turn puts you in a far better than an OEM license or FPP anyways.

    There's a number of posts focusing on the power and speed of a central server. let me be explicit - VMWare and Citrix have tried client side hypervisor implementations and, to be honest, have failed or failed to deliver.

    With VC's offering you reconfigure the end device with their Xen based engine - you can then deploy VMs over the network or via CD. You can then centrally manage updates, take backups, look at diagnostics

    Effectively VC are offering the "wins" of VDI (centralised control, backup, consistency, not relying on image tied to hardware) without the losses (complex licenses, poor remoting experience, change in operating model from desktops-to-servers)

    For all the reasons mentioned Desktop Virtualisation is considered a 'difficult thing' - but there are many ways to skin a cat, there are many ways to virtualise your desktop - and desktop virtualisation is not limited to moving that physical device to operate solely and remotely from a datacentre.
    andrew.wood@...
    • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

      @andrew.wood@... I equate desktop virtualization to the proper use of some combination of access virtualization, application virtualization and, yes, the use of virtual machine technology. Different workloads require different technology.

      I'm reminded of the saying that if a person is holding a hammer everything looks like a nail...

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky
  • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

    Reason #1: Storage costs:

    The fact that storage cost is the main obstacle to widespread adoption of VDI is hardly news at this point. No surprise that the existing vendors are trying to adopt whatever tools they have at their disposal to the emerging needs: if you have a hammer you tend to treat every problem as a nail.

    The core issue here is that VDI takes the I/O performance problem of virtualized servers to the extreme. Systems running large numbers of VDI VMs are the ultimate I/O blender and generate a highly random, small block, write-dominated I/O stream ? exactly the worst case performance scenario for most modern storage subsystems

    A new entrant to the market, www.virsto.com, take a unique Server-side Storage Virtualization approach that solves the I/O performance problem. By adding a storage software layer in the hypervisor, designed to handle the specific workload patterns of similar VM?s in high density configurations (ie VDI), the I/O bottleneck is unplugged and storage provisioning gets reduced by 75-90%. The economics of VDI suddenly become compelling. With the Windows 7 desktop refresh gaining traction and now a compelling ROI story with storage costs reduced, this just might be the year VDI gets real traction.
    Alex.Miro
    • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

      @Alex.Miro VDI, or the combination of access virtualization combined with virtual machine technology, is only one possible combination of technology, and as you point out, is not always the proper selection.

      Don't forget access virtualization and application virtualization's role in desktop virtualization.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky
  • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

    For desktop virtualization for testing software and using the odd Windows app I use Virtualbox and it's damn quick, the only time i notice any slow downs is with graphics heavy apps. I've even managed to run OSX at near native speeds as a client in Virtualbox!
    explodingwalrus
    • RE: Five reasons desktop virtualization has gotten off to a slow start

      @explodingwalrus and you'd be violating the terms and conditions Apple imposes on the use of OSX. :-) That's a supplier who really doesn't get virtualization at all.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky