VDI reconsidered - is wishing for timesharing wrong?

VDI reconsidered - is wishing for timesharing wrong?

Summary: Timesharing used to be the way to share the resources of a single system. It was replaced by client/server computing but suppliers of VDI technology are looking to dig up the past.

TOPICS: Virtualization

In the past week, I've spoken with representatives of three different suppliers of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Each is offering or planning to offer technology which makes it possible for desktop systems or individual workloads to be encapsulated, and then accessed by access virtualization. The encapsulated system or workload images can execute on the local desktop system, a nearby work group server, a server in the business unit's datacenter or on a server back in the enterprise datacenter.

The goal of this exercise is to get back to the simplicity of having workloads either executed in a single location or easily managed as if they were centralized. Other goals are to increase levels of manageability, security and efficiency while also reducing the overall cost of systems, software, storage and networking equipment.

The more I thought about what they had to say, the more I remember the simplicity of working with a timesharing system, such as those offered by DEC, DG, HP, IBM or Pr1me. Often hundreds of staff could be easily supported by one of these systems. Software updates to the operating systems or the applications could be installed without forcing a member of the IT staff member to visit the office of every employee to change something on their system.

While I was a software engineer for one company, a typical customer installation was one server that supported application access for up to 150 people. Think how straightforward it was to install software, update software and backup data.

After hearing about the elaborate, complex ways suppliers are going about the business of delivering applications and data to people today, is it wrong of me too long for the good ol' days of timesharing?

Topic: Virtualization


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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  • No

    No, you're not wrong. Virtually every "people cost" associated with IT is lower in a centralized time-sharing environment. The reason applications migrated out of the "glass palaces" is that plummeting hardware costs associated with VLSI microprocessors, combined with still-high telecommunications costs, made it cheaper to move the "computes" to the desktop and minimize the bits sent over wires.

    The intervening years have seen huge decreases in telecommunications costs. Nobody has "leased lines" anymore, or dedicated T-1 hoses between facilities. Sending bits over the Internet is so cheap that people literally give it away just to get you to eat in their restaurant or whatever.

    No, you're not wrong. At this point both hardware and telecommunications costs are so low that the "people costs" are coming to dominate the picture. That favors moving everything but the keyboard and display into a 21st-Century glass palace, where the expensive priests and minders can be centralized and where their travel expenses and delay are reduced to near-zero.

    I thought this would happen a lot sooner. I figured HDTV would cause decent computer monitors to become so cheap that one could build a desktop workstation for $100-$150. That has happened, but only recently. Not anywhere near 1990 when I wrote the business plan for such a thing :)
    Robert Hahn
  • Yes

    You are wrong. Just try executing and using an application on a touch enabled device hosted by VDI... Nuff said.
    • Doing it for years

      we've been running touch based industry terminals (slaughter lines) using hosted Linux for over a decade.