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VDI Snake Oil Check

You won't lose your shirt on a desktop virtualization initiative, but don't expect it to be easy to implement or free of unforeseen complications.

Desktop infrastructure technology isn't as transformative as many of us thought it would be. Yes, it provides a solid bridge between where the puck was (Windows) and where it's going (mobile). But the business case must make sense.

And that's where things get messy.

As we discuss in more depth in our full report, the decision on whether and where to use VDI depends on your big-picture end user device strategy. As the 483 business technology professionals responding to our InformationWeek 2012 Alternative Application Delivery Survey make clear, VDI won't stop the arrival of what Steve Jobs famously called the "post-PC era." VDI is merely an extension of incumbent technology, not a disrupter, and what it will do is help smooth the transition to the post-PC era by providing three benefits:

>> Mobility: One wow factor for VDI is its ability to deliver a full, user-customizable Windows desktop anywhere, anytime, and on a pretty wide variety of devices. That's a far cry from yesterday's terminal services, where the user wasn't able to install anything, and if the environment got bonked up, it got bonked up for everyone.

>> Security: VDI lets IT keep the user's "hard drive" tucked away in the data center. If the device gets stolen, there's a lot less worry about data loss or network breaches.

>> Manageability: We all know the drill. PC customer needs admin authority "to do my job!" Then, said customer falls victim to malware. With VDI, swapping out someone's PC is as easy as pointing him to a new image. Missing files? Easy, transfer them over. And it can all be done remotely.

These are great value propositions. But is VDI the best use of your limited time and money?

You won't know unless you do an ROI study, like 28% of our respondents. This isn't one of those cases where it's obvious that by investing in, say, licensed wide area wireless gear, you're going to save big bucks on operational expenses. VDI isn't clear-cut. There's value for some, but the path is anything but straightforward. And there are so many issues surrounding VDI that it's easy to leave something out of your factoring.

Three major gotchas typically present themselves when it comes to the ROI and business case for VDI: storage costs, ongoing licensing, and the wisdom of investing in PC infrastructure in a post-PC world that features the rise of Web and mobile apps.

Before you decide to begin or expand VDI use, run the numbers and consider the role of PCs in your future.

chart: What conclusions did you come to after studying the cost and ROI of VDI at your company?

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