OpenStack consortia to rival Citrix, VMware, Microsoft as VDI hits tipping point

One open source consortia will announce plans this month for an OpenStack VDI stack to rival those of Citrix, Microsoft and VMware. Citrix last month unveiled Project Avalon based on CloudStack. Those plans, along with Dell's acquisition of Wyse this week, and VMware's acquisition of Wanova last month, signify a tipping point in the growing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) market.
Written by Paula Rooney on

A  consortia will announce this month the development of an OpenStack-based VDI stack to rival proprietary desktop virtualization platforms of VMware, Citrix and Microsoft.

That, along with recent acquisitions by Dell and VMware in the desktop virtualization space, and Citrix's announcement of CloudStack-based Project Avalon last month, signify an imminent tipping point for enterprise adoption of VDI.

"Dell and HP are contemplating their own VDI solutions and [there is] a consortium working on their own stack independent of VMware and Citrix," said one source who asked not be named. " I think the current interest in VDI is increasing but I think there's a lot more to come with easier-to-use, less-expensive and more complete solutions."

Dell this week announced the completion of its acquisition of Wyse, whose leading thin client hardware is ideal for VDI.  The Wyse thin clients are compatible with Dell's DVS Enterprise, which integrates technology from VMware and Citrix, and also with Citrix’s VDI-in-a-box.

VMware, for its part, recently plunked down $55 million to acquire Wanova and address some VDI-related liabilities in its View product.

There's a coming surge in open source VDI offerings.

Last month, Citrix unveiled Project Avalon, which is aimed at integrating CloudStack, XenDesktop and CloudPortal to enable the delivery of apps and desktops as services for both public cloud providers and enterprises who want to run private clouds, Citrix announced.

CloudStack is an open source cloud platform Citrix recently donated to the Apache Software Foundation that is competing against OpenStack. Citrix also debuted last month XenClient Enterprise to add to its proprietary desktop virtualization portfolio.

OpenStack backers are also on the move and will soon announce a VDI stack independent of industry heavyweights VMware and Citrix, sources say.

It’s been a long time coming. More than 60 percent of today's servers are virtualized, though only a small fraction of them are being used to deploy desktops.

Several years ago, VDI – which Gartner Group says encompasses Server Based Computing, Server Hosted Virtual Desktops, and Client Hosted Virtual Desktops -- was heralded as the next big growth market in the virtualization market but it failed to materialize largely due to performance and complexity issues.

In recent months, however, there has been a noticeable spike in adoption, some systems integrators say.

And it’s not being driven by the oft touted cost benefits of centralized desktop management but by a convergence of trends leading to the next big change in the client paradigm: the forthcoming Windows desktop migration and BYOD.

David Cottingham, group director of data center and virtualization at systems integrator Dimension Data, said the recent uptick in enterprise VDI adoption is being driven by Windows XP end-of-life issues, the explosion in mobile device use at corporations and corporate data security needs.

"VDI is beginning to take off, not for cost reasons, but because of the need to have tight control over the desktop, the need tomove to Windows 7 or Windows 8, the BYOD explosion and protection of corporate assets," Cottingham said in a recent interview.



"Clients are trying to reduce support overhead and you might save a little but it's the need to move to Windows 7 and 8, the explosion in using iPads and other tablets, and the need to bring legacy applications to new devices," he said, adding that "desktop and application virtualization are great ways to enable those at and also to control and protect corporate data assets and backup data.

"They're starting to drive the emergence of VDI," Cottingham said, careful to note that it’s beyond the infancy stage but still far from mainstream. "We've got a number of large deployments going on ... we've done implementations in the 7,000 to 12,000 seat range."

Dimension Data has three customers in the Czech Republic andAustralia that span the travel/tourism, construction and education industries.

Citrix, VMware and Microsoft are the leading VDI vendors today. One “dominant flavor" of adoption that gets a lot of traction is the use of Citrix on the desktop supported by VMware on the back end, Cottingham said. Microsoft's Windows Server 2012, now in release candidate testing, also enhances VDI functionality.

"It's a best-of-breed approach. Citrix has been in desktop virtualization space or along time and VMware is dominant in the data center," he said, noting that Microsoft is also a heavy hitter in VDI. "VMware View is out there but it's not getting as much traction as Citrix or Microsoft on the desktop side. They've been playing catch up. Some clients use [VMware] View for encapsulating the desktop but they're behind the curve."

Michael Palin,  CEO of Waltham,  Mass.-based Leostream, whose Connection Broker VDI integration software powers more than 90,000 hosted desktops at customers such as ADP, Campbell Soup Company and Sony, agreed that the BYOD trend and consumerization  of IT are continuing to “feed the limited growth” in the VDI market but he maintains that the “cost and complexity of Citrix andVMware solutions (and Microsoft licensing to a lesser extent) continue to be huge barriers to broad VDI expansion."

Others say this is why one consortium is working on a new OpenStack VDI stack -- without Citrix and VMware.

Some SMBs and enterprises may elect to go with a cloud-based desktop -- Desktop-as-a-Service -- but IT administrators will likely prefer the data be housed in an on premise private cloud, analysts say. DaaS is one form of VDI.

Gartner Group said whether the adoption rate of VDI has significantly spiked can be debated but one analyst readily agrees that vendors have resolved most of the performance issues that once stalled VDI and he expects that most companies that go with a hosted desktop. It's what corporate users want -- a fully functional desktop with zero latency.

“As far as adoption rate, that could be argued eitherway.  Adding DaaS will definitely help in certain niche cases, but one thing that VDI solved was latency issues between the desktop and datacenter hosted applications. It went to basically 0,” said Gunnar Berger, Research Director of Desktop, Application, Server Virtualization at Gartner Group.

“Pulling the desktop out of the datacenter and into a DaaS provider means adding latency that may or may not be acceptable.  Also, there is a philosophical issue whereby companies are just going to be uncomfortable having all of their important data hosted in someone else’s datacenter,” Gunnar added. “I like the technology but the entire idea of off-premise, be it data or desktops, is a major obstacle.  For this reason I don’t see DaaS outpacing on-premise VDI, at least not for the enterprise.”

What will all this mean to Microsoft?


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