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Desktop Virtualization Today and Tomorrow

A new Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Dimension Data finds that the number of virtual desktop deployments will grow from 27% to 46% in the next two years. While vendors and pundits have been predicting a VDI explosion over the next few years (Gartner estimates there will be as many as 20 million virtual desktops in place by 2014), we're still waiting. 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. A total of 546 organizations were surveyed globally, with the bar set at 1,000 employees for developed countries and 500 for developing nations.

The study, The Client Virtualization Imperative, IT Leaders Embrace Virtual Desktops That Require Hybrid Tools, Skills And Managed Services, turned up three key findings: Organizations of all sizes, industries and geographies are embracing client virtualization; IT managers are embracing hybrid architectures for their segmented workforces; and, near and dear to Dimension Data's heart, IT leaders should turn to systems integrators for deployment and management support.

Forrester concludes that neither the data center nor the desktop team alone has sufficient experience or visibility to make the decisions required in the planning and deployment process, nor the tools to manage the resulting hybrid environment effectively: "Isolated planning leads to inappropriate and impractical decisions about hardware, software and tools. The results are always disappointing if they ultimately deliver reduced availability and performance, higher operational costs or poor end-user satisfaction."

"As a services organization, we wanted to gain insights into this market and understand the drivers and constraints in adoption," says John Meyer, national practice director of the data center solutions business unit, Dimension Data. A subsidiary of Japan's NTT, and headquartered in South Africa, the company is an IT solution provider with 2010 revenues of $4.7 billion. He says it's still early days for VDI, but there's a lot of tire kicking going on, and the growth is coming, from both existing, large and new, smaller customers.

Two of the bigger drivers to desktop virtualization are the growing need for collaboration and desktop migration cycles in general, and Windows 7 in particular. With virtualization, you will be able to get out of that "rip-and-replace" refresh cycle every few years, and the complications and complexities these refreshes create for the applications, Meyer says.

The study states that organizations are still in the early stages of transforming their desktop infrastructures from legacy systems such as Windows XP (supported by 47%) to newer platforms like Windows 7 (supported by 31%). This transition is the perfect opportunity to embrace hybrid architectures, according to Forrester. "New applications, more efficient remote access for mobile devices and quicker time to deploy are driving organizations to question whether deployments always need to be in-sourced and on-premise. Organizations are increasing their investments in cloud-hosted and managed applications and infrastructure services across most domains. Capex savings and reduced staffing requirements are driving increased interest and adoption. Cloud access and delivery opens up new possibilities for mobility and end-user computing, and IT managers are increasingly turning to hybrid systems as they balance their legacy infrastructure with new capabilities and investments."

The study recommends a five-step approach to balancing business productivity without compromising security, manageability and cost: Embrace desktop and application virtualization; build a collaborative client virtualization team; tie virtualization investments into OS migration plans; prepare the application ecosystem for the physical to virtual (P2V) shift; and embrace desktop and virtualization services to accelerate planning and deployment.

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