Survey: Utilization of virtual desktops to grow

perspective Desktop virtualization technology is ready for enterprise-class implementations, says Citrix Systems executive.

perspective Implementation of desktop virtualization is now becoming a critical component of the desktop replacement strategies of many companies, Credit Suisse noted in a recent CIO survey.

Specifically, the average utilization of traditional desktops is expected to fall from 87.8 percent currently to 74.3 percent in five years, while survey respondents indicated that virtual desktops would grow from 1.6 percent of deployments to 8.5 percent in five years.

Considering the large number of desktops enterprises have today, this is a game-changing trend that CIOs of midsize-to-large enterprises cannot afford to ignore.

This second instalment of a three-part series on virtualization looks at the benefits of deploying the technology on desktops.

To put it simply, desktop virtualization involves separating the physical location where the PC desktop resides, from where the user is accessing the PC. With desktop virtualization, desktops are centrally managed and run in the data center and virtually delivered to end users.

With the maturity of today’s virtualization technology, desktops can be delivered quickly, reliably and securely to any location. Desktop virtualization has now scale to enterprises with lower costs and superior user experience leveraging technologies such as dynamic desktop provisioning and application virtualization.

As a result, desktops that are delivered as a service from the data center are now feasible and viable.

Anecdotal evidence shows that desktop centralization lowers the cost of desktop maintenance and support by up to 40 percent, reduces the risk of data loss and increases availability.

Numerous benefits will drive the adoption of desktop virtualization:

Desktop deployment Desktop virtualization
Desktop OS Slow desktop refresh and patching Rapid and proactive updates
User settings Everyone is different, costly one-off fixes Fix once centrally for lower TCO
Applications Bloated desktops, poor performance Pristine, fast apps and desktops
User data Distributed data causes security and compliance risk Controlled and secured in the data center

Security is also a very important driver for adopting desktop virtualization. We have all heard of employees losing laptops containing sensitive information, which has resulted in serious consequences including large fines and lawsuits.

There would be no issue if sensitive information never left the data center and no confidential data was kept on laptops. Desktop virtualization can mitigate this risk by centralizing and locking down the data and the desktop in the data center.

In addition to enabling lower cost desktop management and access to desktops anytime and anywhere, desktop virtualization enables several other business initiatives such as branch expansion, outsourcing, regulatory compliance and business continuity.

It is not the lack of a business case that is stopping some organizations from adopting desktop virtualization. Rather, the traditional practice that all operating systems (and all applications, for that matter) must be installed locally, is the main stumbling block. However, industry analyst forecasts and successful implementations by early adopters, point to fact that this need not be the case.

Long-held beliefs can be hard to change. Forward looking CIOs must challenge conventional ways of managing desktops if they are going to push their business forward.

Before embarking on a desktop virtualization effort, organizations must have clearly defined goals, assess their environment and identify the risks involved. Enterprises should also look for vendors who have end-to-end desktop delivery offerings that include complementary components for performance monitoring, WAN (wide area network) optimization and remote assistance. This is important to avoid creating yet more silos within the organization’s IT infrastructure.

The vendor should also have a strategic relationship with the operating system’s vendor to ensure the commitment in continued investments in improving the technology.

Desktop virtualization will not be a simple deploy-and-forget one-time exercise. With good foresight and commitment, visionary CIOs can reap benefits that repay the investments many times over. But it takes courage to challenge convention and take a bold first step.

Brian Higgins is Pacific channels director for Citrix Systems, and is responsible for driving the company's channel strategy and partner engagement for the region. This is the second of a three-part series on virtualization.