Application Syncopation: the ‘irregular’ beat of the virtual desktop

I want all my applications on my machine all of the time – don’t I? That’s why I installed Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac (it really is better than people say) the other day.
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor

I want all my applications on my machine all of the time – don’t I? That’s why I installed Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac (it really is better than people say) the other day. I download apps to my machine(s) because I want them, I like them and I want to use them all the time.

So will the drive towards virtual desktop applications have the impact upon our daily usage behaviour that vendors in this zone say it will? I guess we only have to look at Twitter, gmail and your other online favourites to remind ourselves that these sites are still applications - and with broadband/wireless penetration so high here in the UK, who cares if they are delivered down the pipe?

This theme was actually scoring high on the topical barometer at last week's Parallels Summit 2009 in Las Vegas, but with all the ‘big picture’ talk of hosted services and optimisation, I probably didn’t get as much time to look at it as I had wanted.

So end-user desktops will reside on a virtual server with users connecting to them from any networked device. OK we know that. But will users be OK with this? Rather than the regular beat of your normal application suite, would you feel OK knowing that your arguably more ‘irregular’ stream of apps was there when you wanted it, but at a speed and beat specified by you the user?


Parallels calls it Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) - and the drive by virtualisation vendors far and wide to instill this method of desktop delivery into our corporate underbellies.

VDI is argued to be a more cost effective approach to the traditional PC or thin client desktop computing. With VDI end-users will see and interact with exactly the same operating system and applications they’re used to on their traditional desktop. However, the operating system and applications are now hosted on a central server.

Parallels in particular points out that this application server itself is then virtualised, so must logically be open to optimisation and consolidation efficiencies. The company says that typically, organisations can get up to 150 virtual desktops on a typical dual CPU Quad Core server with 32GB RAM.

The argument (which I am sure you know but I will state for completeness) is that VDI can remove the pain of maintaining and managing traditional desktop systems. Applications and patches can be rolled out more efficiently and there is greater control of what is downloaded into the IT environment.

For businesses this means PC management becomes easier and the cost of desktop computing generally can potentially be reduced. Companies can also take advantage of data centre licensing due to the high number of desktops that can be hosted on one physical server.

There’s still more analysis to do here isn’t there? This topic seems to make so many headlines. Gartner Inc. recently stated that, “The effective use of virtualisation can reduce server energy consumption by up to 82 per cent and floor space by 85 per cent.” (Gartner: "Energy Savings via Virtualization: Green IT on a Budget"; Nov. 12, 2008).

So let the debate continue. I actually thought I’d write this application syncopation blog while listening to Ringo Starr’s syncopated magnum opus moment on Tomorrow Never Knows where he finally worked out what those wooden sticks were for.

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