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Virtual Desktops Head to the Mainstream

Quoting Newsfactor

Virtual desktops were once a relatively drab technology for call centers, schools and other undemanding IT environments. But a new breed of desktop virtualization tools is being aimed at mainstream corporate users by large and small vendors alike.

In addition, Microsoft Corp.'s recent releases of Windows Vista and Office 2007 have some companies rethinking how they want to deploy future desktop software upgrades. Microsoft itself helped that process along by adding a software license that lets customers with Software Assurance maintenance and upgrade contracts run their Windows clients in virtual machines on servers.

Michael Koval, CIO at Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. in Fairfax, Va., is receptive to the new desktop virtualization offerings, having had positive experiences with earlier products such as Citrix Systems Inc.'s Presentation Server, as well as server virtualization software from VMware Inc.

"We're definitely looking at all of the options," Koval said. Long & Foster has used Presentation Server for the past seven years to deliver applications hosted on servers to more than 3,500 employees and 16,000 affiliated real estate agents. Besides centralizing management, the Citrix software has enabled the real estate firm to provide applications to end users on an as-needed basis, reducing the number of software licenses that Koval needs to buy.

Citrix acquired application streaming vendor Ardence Inc. in December, and recently announced a virtualization product called Desktop Server. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company claims to be the only vendor offering all forms of thin-client and virtual desktops under a common management infrastructure.

That's good news to Koval. "It's definitely more attractive," he said, "because then I don't have to go upstairs to ask for money to overhaul my entire infrastructure. I picked Citrix many years ago because they already had a lot of services under one roof. That trend has only continued."

New-Product Wave

Citrix isn't the only vendor introducing new products. Virtual Iron Software Inc., a developer of server virtualization tools in Lowell, Mass., and Provision Networks Inc., a desktop virtualization vendor in Reston, Va., announced recently that they're teaming up to offer a virtual desktop package that's priced at $120 per client.

And Austin-based Clear­Cube Technology Inc. said recently that the latest version of its PC blade software includes a connection broker that can manage virtual desktops via links to VMware's server virtualization tools.

Although desktop virtualization is technically possible using VMware's software alone, "logistical hurdles" make that approach cumbersome for most users, according to Brian Madden, principal analyst at The Brian Madden Company LLC in Silver Spring, Md.

"The smart vendors took a lot of notes and went to developers to make [virtual desktops] happen," Madden said. "That's why you're seeing a wave of products just now hitting the market."

But, he added, most of the products remain point solutions, offering application streaming, terminal services or desktop virtualization - but not all three. Citrix is the only vendor to have announced "a true end-to-end offering," Madden said.

Despite the new offerings, users such as Station Casinos Inc. are staying on the sidelines for the time being.

Station would seem to be a good candidate for virtual desktops. At its various properties, the Las Vegas-based casino operator has 3,500 Windows-based PCs that are shared by 15,000 employees over three work shifts daily. Many of the PCs are lightly used; 30% don't even have Office installed on them.

But Steve Bastille, IT director for server and desktop systems at Station, said he sees no economic incentive to move to virtual desktops at this point.

"We have not been able to justify the additional server hardware costs and infrastructure needed," he said, pointing to the need for network upgrades and the purchase of other software licenses.

Frank Yawn, IT manager at Time Warner Cable Inc.'s office in Greensboro, N.C., has used Ardence's software for the past two years to stream applications to 400 call center PCs. But Yawn has little interest in adding other types of virtualized desktops. "Whenever you introduce something new," he said, "rarely does the cost go down."

Read the original, here.

Published Friday, June 01, 2007 5:44 AM by David Marshall
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