For many companies, virtualization has barely begun. Perhaps there’s a single box running VMware Server as a proof of concept, or a pilot project involving a commercial or open source hypervisor. But as virtualization proliferates on the server side, the desktop side will open up. According to VMWare’s Chen, “We’re starting to see our customers becoming comfortable with their virtualized back end, and they’re looking to do the same on the desktops with VDI.”
Moreover, some of the benefits intrinsic to server virtualization are transportable to the desktop. VM migration between servers, for instance, can be used in a VDI sense to move active desktop sessions from one spot to another in order to bring a server down for maintenance. This equals zero downtime for the end-user and eases administration complexity. Also in the mix are the high-availability features found in VMware and VirtualIron. Should a physical server go down unexpectedly, the desktop VMs running on that server can be restarted automatically on another server.
Superior load balancing is another VDI bonus. Traditional Citrix MetaFrame and terminal services farms can use any of several load-balancing methods, but once a client is connected to a specific server, that connection stays put. In a VDI implementation, that user’s session can move around among different physical servers without affecting the session, resulting in much more fluid load balancing.
Right now, any customer who rolls out VDI in a production environment is the very definition of an early adopter. There are many missing or incomplete pieces to this puzzle, but the companies with a stake in this game are moving at a fast clip. Several broker and hypervisor vendors are looking at the last quarter of 2007 to release brand-new VDI frameworks, and so are the thin-client vendors. The heyday of the virtual desktop is just a glimmer on the horizon, but the future definitely looks bright.