Why so many businesses aren't ready for virtual desktops

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.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

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.

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