Wolf believes 2010 will be the year enterprises "kick the tires," and start small pilots. But even those who adopt desktop virtualization aren't likely to virtualize their entire desktop infrastructures right away, he says. "In terms of wholesale virtualization of the desktop, I don't think we're anywhere close at this point," Wolf says.
The typical CIO has a "dose of skepticism," says Phil Grove, global director of end user services at CSC, an IT outsourcing firm. "There are not a lot of people doing it at scale yet."
There are numerous models for enterprises to consider within the desktop virtualization realm. There's presentation virtualization, which executes applications on a server and remotely presents the application interface to a user's endpoint device, according to Burton Group.
VDI is generally synonymous with server-hosted virtual desktops, but is slightly different than presentation virtualization. Server virtualization is typically the back-end platform for VDI, with each desktop running inside an isolated server-based virtual machine.
Other forms of desktop virtualization include blade PCs and client-hosted virtual desktops. A blade PC runs in the data center and can be accessed remotely by client devices, but each blade PC can only serve one user at a time. Client-hosted virtualization, on the other hand, puts the desktop hypervisor on the desktop machine itself, requiring a more robust client device but also providing better options for offline access. Client-hosted virtualization is becoming popular with organizations that let employees bring their own PCs to work, Grove says.
You can also expect some cloud-hosted desktop offerings to emerge. The vendor Virtual Bridges has taken a step in this direction by offering hosted virtual desktops running in Rackspace data centers.
VMware and Citrix have run into roadblocks in their plans to build bare-metal hypervisors -- virtualization software that runs directly on system hardware instead of on top of a host operating system -- for desktop PCs. But both companies, as well as Microsoft, are staying busy on the desktop front.
VMware recently upgraded its ThinApp application virtualization software to improve migration of applications from older versions of Windows to Windows 7. Microsoft, meanwhile, has lowered the price of licensing the Windows operating system in virtual desktop deployments, and announced new bundles with Citrix designed to lure customers away from VMware.
Specifically, Microsoft and Citrix are offering a year's worth of free desktop virtualization for as many as 500 users for companies that switch from VMware View to Citrix's XenDesktop VDI and Microsoft VDI.
Whether a customer opts for VMware, Citrix, or Microsoft on the virtualization side, upgrades in Windows 7 will increase the viability of virtual desktop deployments, experts say.
IT manger Dan Powers of Cox Communications in Omaha, Neb., who runs VMware View and is testing Windows 7 for a potential upgrade, says Windows 7 desktop images can be built in a modular fashion, making them less data-intensive. Whereas Cox's XP images are 10GB apiece, a Windows 7 desktop image can be 2GB or even less.
"It's a modular approach to building your desktop," he says. Whereas XP is "an all-or-nothing deal," Windows 7 desktop images allow Powers to strip out unnecessary components, he says. "I don't need this big, bloated operating system anymore."
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