Why so many businesses aren't ready for virtual desktops

Why so many businesses aren't ready for virtual desktops

Summary: As adoption of hosted virtual desktops takes off over the next four years many businesses will need to reconfigure existing storage infrastructure, if they are to deliver suitable performance at an acceptable cost.


Adoption of server-hosted virtual desktops is predicted to take off in the next four years, forcing many businesses to overhaul their existing IT infrastructure.

Use of server-hosted virtual desktops (SHVD) will grow almost fourfold by 2016, making up 16.9 percent of business user's desktops, according to analyst house Gartner.

Philip Dawson, research VP with Gartner, said businesses' existing virtualised server environments are often not set up to match the demands of SHVD - for instance, from many users simultaneously accessing common files.

As businesses increase use of SHVD, he said, they may need to put in place large storage caches capable of sharing files across hundreds to thousands of virtual desktops in a timely fashion.

Building a suitably responsive cache will demand an intelligent use of flash, he said, such as SSD with auto-tiering, second level flash cache, PCI-e flash and all flash arrays.

Businesses need to look beyond traditional storage appliances from the large vendors, he said.

"For virtual desktops you're going to need a cheaper storage solution to make it more acceptable to the organisation. You've got to look at new storage hierarchies for new delivery models," he told the recent Gartner Datacentre Summit in London.

The challenge for IT teams will be finding way to deal with the bandwidth strain during peak demand - for instance when hundreds or thousands of users log on to a virtual desktop at the start of the day - while staying within an acceptable budget, he said.

Faced with the challenge of balancing cost and performance for SHVD implementations he said some organisations are choosing to use tools like VMware View that analyse how a business' existing infrastructure will cope with SHVD demands, and recommend where they need to be expanded.

Topics: Cloud, Servers, Virtualization


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • DaaS

    I agree with the need for a cached storage system if they are to deliver suitable performance at an acceptable cost. Something along the lines of a CDN for companies with multipul branches would work well.

    Reconfiguring existing storage infrastructure and/or the server environment to facilitate SHVD's is an expensive avenue to peruse and may not always be the best solution.

    Implication such's as current IT staff skill sets may not be adequate enough to manage, let alone install and configure a virtual environment.

    And of course the cost is always going to be a burdon especially with the cost of storage these days.

    Most companies are finding it a much more cost effective solution to simply outsource it to a DaaS provider.

    One of the many advantages of doing so would be greater performance, especially on issues such as you mentioned "when hundreds or thousands of users log on to a virtual desktop at the start of the day ".

    DaaS providers have invested in hardware such as NetScalers that can deal with problems like that among other specialist hardware that is used to ensure performance is at its best.

    Outsourcing to a DaaS provider is becoming a much more cost effective solution and a lot more companies are considering/doing as opposed to doing it themselves in-house.
  • to log into a virtual desktop

    you need a physical computer to begin with. What advantage does one get by using a virtual desktop vs just storing files in a common folder somewhere on the network?
    • Access to more compute power for one.

      The small computer used at the desk is only a remote smart display/keyboard/mouse.

      With 10Gbit network capability, it can do anything a local desktop can do.

      In addition it can dynamically expand CPU requirements from 1/2/4...32/64 CPUs.

      Access to more storage at higher speed. Very few desktops actually support multiple attached fiber channel storage with 100s of TBs available...

      Oh right - I forgot, Windows won't do that...
      • more questions

        How does it give you access to more storage?

        When you say that Windows does not support multiple attached fiber channel storage, do you imply that Unix does out of the box? And if not Unix, then what?
      • 10Gbit?

        Who has a 10Gbit network connection to their desktop?
  • The AppStore

    Interesting, although I think that company’s need to re-look at and rethink the use of applications before they make any assumptions about storage, there is a view that 80% of the stuff that’s installed as applications on a person’s business desktop is either not used or rarely used, take a look at this survey that we recently did at Embarcadero makes for interesting reading - http://www.embarcadero.com/products/appwave/pc-software-survey-2012
  • Hmm

    I think some of this is a non issue. I would just spread the load accross multiple cheap dual quad core systems that have lots of ram for caching and maybe even a RAM drive for things that thrash in the night with some not so large SSD storage for frequently accessed data, the OS and whatnot. You don't have to have the latest in technology CPU's and RAM that cost a ton of money. Buy some of the older stuff. Then have multiple large platter based network storage devices with SSD caching. You don't have to worry about bandwidth between the thin client and the server. You only have to worry about bandwidth for connectivity between your servers and nas systems. There are some decent low cost short range connectivity options for than such as Infiniband. On the little more expensive side you could get into bonded 10GB ethernet, fiber.

    I think using a combination of these things wisely will give you something that scales pretty nice.

    Am I off base?
  • works well IF everyone has the same set of standard tools

    in addition to being a remote worker, my tool needs differ from those of most of my co-workers. I use dual monitors, additional graphics tools, and have different browser issues - can I do my job with the same setup IT wants to thrust on all workers? Not quite, and what I can do takes a BIG productivity plunge.

    One of the reasons the PC made such big inroads over the mainframe in the 80's & 90's is the productivity gains achieved in certain jobs. I have no issue with virtual desktops per se, but IT needs to stop the pendulum swing back towards centralization before it swings too far and recognize when it has to be more flexible.
    Jim Johnson
  • Refurb Desktops Cheaper

    I can get a refurbed desktop with Windows 7, 4 GB of memory, and a five-year warranty under $250.00; so why would I go virtual?
    • It's not a money saving proposition

      Admins who have looked closely at desktop virtualization will tell you that it is not the same as server virtualization. You're not doing this to save money on hardware and you really don't even do it to benefit the end user. Building a VDI is about uptime. Whether that means better security, better backups, better connectivity, faster recovery or easier deployments. Virtual desktops cost more but are cheaper and easier to maintain and administrate. Also, not every desktop can or should be virtualized, but if you have a group of workers doing the same work (call centers, point of sale clerks, data entry reps), there is no reason to deploy 50 cloned PCs under their desks. That is where VDI is a good fit and it will ease the burden of administration of those clients.
  • There is a bitter but more need of understanding IT HVD trends

    I believe they should work with how trends are changing. We all have Gartner's report in front of us. The businesses specially IT focussed business shoud realize the potential in it. There was a time when people were jarry and consused about using P2, P3, P4, then laptops, then laptops, iPhones, anroids and all the updated technological products but now there is no survival without using the updated technology and by the year 2016 SHVD are going to be the most updated IT infrastructure capture of the time. Read this blog to know its worth at the moment: http://www.dincloud.com/blog/hosted-virtual-desktop-adoption-trends
    • the link provided does not explain

      how it is HVD is better then VPN.

      unless as dseward noted HVD gived you more security, better backups or as jessepollard noted it gives you fiber access to storage and multiple cpu capability.

      but the link itself is worthless as it explains nothing.
  • 'deliver suitable performance at an acceptable cost.'

    This is being done now with distributed computers running their own desktops, caching on hard drives and accessing data on the network. So why re-invent the wheel (or the multiuser mainframe) at great expense?