Does virtualisation stop at the server?

Think ‘virtualisation’ and what comes to mind? I don’t mean Diane Greene’s exit and Microsoft’s Hyper-V, I mean what type of virtualisation and where?
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor

Think ‘virtualisation’ and what comes to mind? I don’t mean Diane Greene’s exit and Microsoft’s Hyper-V, I mean what type of virtualisation and where? Mostly we think of server consolidation, saving data centre costs and all things related to virtual infrastructures.

So there I was chatting to Patrick Irwin from Citrix last week and I must admit that my mind was opened up to other strands of virtualisation technology. ZDNet itself has recently reported on the company’s Xen desktop virtualisation product and the comparatively slow uptake of this level of virtual provisioning.

We should also, according to Irwin, talk about application virtualisation. Essentially this is the same thing as talking about desktop virtualisation, but it means that we’re actually looking at the applications being delivered to users and the management options that come with this scenario.

Updates can be pushed out more easily, monitoring and maintenance becomes more straightforward and, potentially, this has implications for the developers working to build these apps knowing they have extra post-release control.

Citrix says that application virtualisation provides the experience of a desktop application to users without the need for it to physically sit on their PC, laptop, PDA or other personal device. With the applications housed on a central server, only a virtual interface is sent over the network to the user.

As previous mentioned in the above link, this all sounds great on paper and Citrix (and no doubt VMware and Microsoft too) will tell us that there has been a strong increase in customer deployments. But it’s a long way from being a de facto standard yet that’s for sure.

The best bit is probably the fact that by replicating centralised applications on a back-up server, companies are able to provide employees with a desktop ‘experience’ identical to the one they use in the office, irrespective of where they are or what computer they are using.

Irwin is of the opinion that over the next few years, virtualisation will lead to the automation of IT management as we no longer need to proactively install applications at the desktop for users or configure a users’ personal devices to meet their needs.

IBM and CA both talk volubly on autonomic self-healing computing systems and the applications that sit within them, but I only ever hear about them at a conceptual level. Don’t get me wrong; it’s fascinating stuff – you just don’t read about it much unless you go looking for it. So again, it’s not the ‘standard’ yet is it?

Citrix says that, “Bringing new users online can take minutes rather than months.” Wow – I bet you’re glad you don’t work for a company that took “months” to get you an email account don’t you? There is clearly a little overselling going on here. But it may well become a more prevalent feature of enterprise desktop management if we wait for the dust to settle a little.

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