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Cortado 2013 Prediction: VDI Printing - The Past, Present and Future

VMblog Predictions

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2013.  Read them in this VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed article by Henning Volkmer, CEO, Cortado, Inc.

VDI Printing: The Past, Present and Future

When it comes to implementing new technologies, the industry tends to measure success on time-to-market and the change it has on an organization in months, maybe even weeks.  Judging by this industry standard, the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) movement has far surpassed these time standards.  In its defense, VDI is a technology that everyone from vendors to the VDI systems themselves to customers are all trying to perfect.  After all, vendors have a huge user base to satisfy and those end users are becoming more demanding than ever.

The Past

VDI has come a long way in the last few years.  It estimated that the number of those evaluating VDI has grown to 40 percent in midsize enterprises. These enterprises are seriously committing to virtual desktops with the intention to use the technology for more than a third of their desktops by the time VDI projects are complete.

It's safe to say that desktop virtualization will have a huge impact in the next few years. To make sure that all the investments into the technology pay off, it is absolutely critical that desktop virtualization projects one-up the user experience of a desktop PC. Anything less and the lack of user acceptance and increased user support will make it impossible for the project to break even.

The Present

There are two key areas to keep an eye on when it comes to ensuring a superior user experience, printing and mobility. While printing and mobility seem very different, they have come together thanks to one of today's hottest items: the iPad.

When working on a cutting edge VDI deployment, it may seem almost silly to spend time thinking about printing.  After all, printing is a technology that has been around for decades and fundamentally does not seem to have changed in quite some time. But printing remains woven into the fabric of business as one of its most important services and it takes effort to bring legacy technology and integrate it with the newest desktop technology. On the upside, that effort is usually rewarded with a better-than-ever printing experience accompanied with significant cost savings.

Printing challenges in VDI are very similar to those encountered by people who have tried, or used, terminal services based applications by Microsoft or Citrix over the past decade. As desktop operating systems and applications are centralized, it becomes evident the amount of bandwidth printing requires.  In addition, the thousands of different printer drivers that pose compatibility challenges and how the constant change of printers, queues, settings etc. require too much administrative time need to be taken into consideration. When putting printing under the microscope, it reveals how expensive (estimates usually range upwards of 5 percent of a companies revenue) printing actually is when you take into account the printer and supply costs, as well as the for IT resources and staff.

As VDI becomes more widely used, it also brings increased interest in the ability to deliver solutions to the most efficient end points instead of using the regular PC endpoint.  This allows IT to enable different work styles, further simplify administration and reduce costs. While no one will argue that iPads and some other tablets have brought increased interest in using VDI wherever and whenever, even though that may not always be the most efficient way of using applications and company data on these devices. There is also an increased interest in making office desks more efficient and easy to use..  The recent acquisition of Wyse, the long-time industry leader for thin clients, by Dell, certainly shows an increased interest of mainstream IT in revamping the office computing experience.

From a printing perspective however, these devices will require some added attention. A traditional Windows PC can be used to process the raw print job that is delivered by the application. This does not solve any bandwidth problems, but alleviates the strain by mitigating some of the printer driver issues as long as the user has administrative access to that PC.

With mobile operating systems like iOS and Android written to be far less complicated than traditional desktop OS's and with most thin clients designed for maximum efficiency, there is no room in the operating system to user printer drivers and jobs need to be fully processed on the backend before being sent to the printer. This requires added computing resources on the virtual desktop and potentially requires the image to deal with dozens of different drivers and driver versions and the potential conflicts that arise from that.

Those who have dedicated much of their professional lives to helping users enjoy the benefits of a centralized VDI, could add to the list of things to watch out for, but I think it has become pretty obvious that printing is an important topic as you work on or consider VDI.  It is also important to note there are affordable and cost effective solutions that can make the VDI printing experience better than what most users know from their PC by enabling new agile and mobile work styles while at the same time enabling companies to increase security as well as reduce direct printing and printing-related administrative costs.

The Future

As you are heading into 2013 with plans to evaluate or expand your VDI deployments make sure you take a look at printing and mobility and evaluate solutions that can improve printing based on the following criteria.

1)      Does the vendor have close ties to your VDI vendor? Some of the print solution companies provide basic print technology to the VDI vendors with more capable add-ons available. At a minimum, they should be able to show that they have worked with that VDI vendor for years and delivered reliable results with small and large customers.

2)      Can the technology you are looking at be used across different platforms to bring added benefits to your current and continuing PC deployments? Usually those solutions can also be switched to new VDI technology or OS at little or no cost should you decide to upgrade your VDI technology down the road?

3)      Can the vendor truly support mobile printing from iPads and other mobile devices to deliver an enterprise grade print experience at any location? Just leveraging technology built into the device like AirPrint will not meet your users' needs.

4)      Can the vendor truly centralize printing to print servers in your data centers and still deliver a superb experience across your user base? As you centralize desktops and applications you really do not want to keep administering printing on users' desks, desktops or on individual servers in different locations.

5)      Is the vendor truly focused on printing? Do they vendor offer tools for cost analysis? Can they support increased security requirements with encryption or release upon user authentication? Will they be able to support more complicated scenarios like published applications within virtual desktops?

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Published Monday, November 26, 2012 9:30 AM by David Marshall
Comments
VMblog.com - Virtualization Technology News and Information for Everyone - (Author's Link) - January 15, 2013 7:00 AM

First, I'd like to personally thank everyone for being a valued member and reader of VMblog! Once again, with the help of each of you, VMblog has been able to remain one of the oldest and most successful virtualization and cloud news sites on the Web

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