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2012: Veni, Vidi, VDI

Will 2012 be the year desktop virtualization--a.k.a. VDI, thin-client computing or anything but Wintel--finally moves from primarily a vendor push to customer pull? The vendors--and pundits--have been shouting the praises of VDI for the last several years, but the reality has not come close to the hype.

Last year Gartner reported that more than 80% of enterprises have a virtualization program or project, and predicted that the desktop would be virtualized via solutions such as virtual desktop infrastructure or hosted virtual desktops. Gartner estimated that there will be as many as 20 million virtual desktops in place by 2014. Earlier this year, CDW found that 90% of businesses are considering or implementing client virtualization projects, most of them within the next 12 to 24 months. Of those with client virtualization plans, 61% said the driver is an expected reduction in IT costs; 40% are looking for easier distribution of software; 38% aim for increased IT productivity; and 37% seek to improve IT support services.

In September, a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Dimension Data found that the number of virtual desktop deployments will grow from 27% to 46% in the next two years. According to the study, most organizations’ existing deployments touch less than 500 employees today, but they have plans to scale these deployments to thousands--and ultimately tens of thousands--of users during the next two years.

But CDW also reported that companies were finding that client virtualization is more complex to implement than they realized, that ROI is difficult to calculate, and that training end users can be a challenge. According to IDC, U.S. thin-client sales will double during the next few years, but that will amount to less than 2 million units by 2013. "Many businesses are getting their feet wet, but not taking the plunge," states CDW in the report.

Technologies that enable desktop virtualization, of which VDI is only one, are finally maturing to the point where enterprises can realize ROI, says Karin Kelley, analyst, infrastructure management, at 451 Research. "It’s the management software that has emerged around the major desktop virtualization platforms that is key, including assessment software from the likes
of Liquidware Labs and Lakeside Software, the monitoring software from vendors like eG Innovations, and user profile management from players like Appsense and RES Software that are making this possible. Layering technologies from companies such as Unidesk and Wanova also reduce the complexity in managing desktop virtualization environments, as well as the strain on
storage systems through dynamic desktop image composition."

She says desktops as a service (DaaS) offerings are also worth considering. "Pioneer Desktone plays here, along with dinCloud and tuCloud. All of the telcos and service providers are vying for this market, too. In early results from our INfoPro survey on desktop virtualization, all of the respondents have indicated that desktop virtualization is on the roadmap for 2012."

Analyst Marc Staimer, president and CDS, Dragon Slayer Consulting, was more terse in his desktop virtualization expectations for 2012. "As far as VDI goes, I would strongly recommend they use something like Atlantis Computing, Sanbolic or Alacritech."

"Veni, vidi, vici," the Latin phrase "I came, I saw, I conquered," attributed to Julius Caesar in 47 BC.

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