Server virtualisation is making ever-deeper inroads into enterprise datacentres with distinguished Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman arguing that more than half of all workloads will be running in virtual machines by 2013.
But what about virtualisation of business desktops? With some analysts calling this the next target for enterprise virtualisation, the number of firms that are employing this is predicted to increase significantly in 2011.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) definition: A virtual desktop infrastructure separates a physical desktop PC system from the underlying operating system, by running the operating system as a virtual machine on a server.
As the operating system executes applications, the screen output is delivered over a network connection to the end-user device. That device could be a thin client, a zero client, mobile devices like smartphones or iPads or even a desktop PC.
Tarkan Maner, chief executive of thin computing specialist Wyse gave Computing five business reasons for CIOs to virtualise their desktop systems.
VDI allows you to move security applications into your back-end systems. The client infrastructure (likely to be thin or even zero) will have no security applications running on it.
Compare that with desktop PCs. Even if you spend large sums of money on McAfee or Symantec anti-malware packages, there is a chance that you will be infected. A secure PC is an oxymoron.
2. Disaster recovery and business continuity
At our last CIO seminar, many CIOs were saying they wanted to separate users from devices and data. It's easier to back up user data and simplify disaster recovery procedures that way.
In the event of problems with a device, you can simply plug in a new device, leaving the data (which resides in the back end) unaffected.
If your desktop PC operating system fails, it will need to be re-imaged or
replaced. You could have big problems if the data is stored locally.
3. Total cost of ownership
In addition, from an operational expenses perspective, VDI is much cheaper than a traditional PC deployment. The management costs are much lower since there's little or nothing to manage – it all runs off a back-end server.
That's nirvana for CIOs, as there is a lot of pressure on them to reduce management costs.
There's also a green angle here. A typical PC uses 150-300 Watts, a typical thin client uses 20-40 watts, and we have some thin client systems that use just six watts at full operation.
Remember also the typical depreciation or replacement cycle for a PC is three years, whereas with our devices you're looking at six to seven years. In Brazil we have some customers that have been running the same devices for 14 years.
4. Business agility
If you have a rapidly expanding business that wants to open further branches quickly, all you need is to get network access to each branch and ship in the client devices. It makes them very easy to deploy.
Another example of how VDI enables flexibility is with home working.
For example, the banks in Canary Wharf can't put any more air-conditioning into their offices because they don't have enough power to drive the units. Office conditions aren't suitable in some instances and so they have developed a work at home scheme.
If they use VDI for this scheme means they don't have to send PCs to the homes of their staff, they just ship a device and a spare in case of problems with the main device.
5. User experience
There was a time when user experience inhibited the deployment of thin clients, but thin-client voice, data and video services have improved significantly.
Another plus is the boot-up time, the client devices we sell can boot up in under 10 seconds, and shut down in less than a second. Compare that with a PC, which could easily take five minutes to boot up.
Some of the large banks have over 100,000 employees worldwide, including their branch offices. Calculating the boot-up and shutdown times for that type of company and the productivity loss is huge.