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Barriers Clearing for VDI Adoption - Why 2010 will be a better year for virtual desktop infrastructure

Contributed article by Bob Hoffman, President and COO of Tranxition

Barriers Clearing for VDI Adoption

Why 2010 will be a better year for virtual desktop infrastructure.

At the end of last year we were all excited about the prospects for hosted virtual desktops and VDI.  There was serious customer interest with numerous ‘proof of concept' projects that should have led to significant adoption.  Instead, adoption was surprisingly slow and shallow.  Although the economic challenges were undeniable, there is more to the story. 

Some have concluded that the business case for hosted virtual desktops just isn't sufficient. We disagree. The benefits of hosted virtual desktop technologies are valid today and address real problems that IT managers face right now.  We argue that several other issues in 2009 seriously stalled VDI adoption, and their resolution will lead to substantial uptake in 2010 and beyond. 

Unrealistic Expectations

VDI entered the "Trough of Disillusionment" Phase of the Gartner Hype Cycle in 2009, when people started to notice that the promised savings in desktop equipment and power just didn't pencil out.  At the same time, VDI truly offers significant tangible value by reducing direct IT labor costs, increasing flexibility and improving control. 

We think VDI adoption will increase in 2010 as businesses traverse the "Slope of Enlightenment" and evaluate VDI in light of its core benefits.

Instability = Frugality

2009 has been tough all around.  Although companies need to invest in desktop computing infrastructure, they became quite frugal and expected quick returns on investment. Although the promise of VDI is compelling, the high cost of switching from PCs to server-based computing structures discouraged buyers in these lean times. 

Although we can't predict the future we are starting to feel less turbulence and more opportunity.  The "consensus view" seems to be that enterprises will begin taking a longer-term view with their IT investments in 2010 and 2011.

We also believe that hosted virtual desktop offerings will substantially increase adoption of VDI, even if the economic recovery is slow.  By outsourcing the entire desktop delivery and maintenance function to a centralized data center, businesses gain the cost advantage of scale without the capital investment necessary to create and maintain the infrastructure.  Watch for these solutions to take off in the coming years.

Windows 7 Announcement Effect

It became fairly clear by the middle of 2009 that businesses were waiting on Windows 7 before planning their next desktop refresh cycle.  The current enterprise desktop computer fleet is old and expensive to maintain.  Most users still run Windows XP, despite its vulnerabilities.  IT organizations know they need to upgrade, but want to ensure such a mass undertaking is done right.

We contend that Windows 7 will encourage adoption of VDI.  As IT organizations begin planning the next big desktop refresh cycle, they will find that the capital cost of implementing server-based computing is approaching the alternative of buying new PCs that can run Windows 7.  We believe that the high value of VDI in relation to the low incremental capital cost will drive leading enterprises to implement server-based computing for significant portions of their user base in the next year or two.

Improving the User Experience

Cultural resistance from end users has been cited as the #1 challenge when implementing VDI.  It's not VDI itself users hate; it's the reduced productivity.  Not surprisingly, VDI projects that do not properly manage user desktop personality tended to fail. It's not surprising:  Imagine how happy you'd be if during every session you had to re-enter industry specific terms in spell-check, reload your browser favorites (and passwords), deal with unfamiliar toolbar configurations, remap your printer and wait through a 3-5 minute log on times. 

Fortunately a few vendors have developed solutions that layer user customizations and data dynamically onto non-persistent virtual machines.  Such ‘user virtualization' solutions are the only way for hosted virtual desktops to scale and provide an acceptable user experience.  (Full disclosure:  Tranxition's AdaptivePersona is a user virtualization solution.)

Special Needs for Managing VDI

VDI technology is still evolving rapidly, and no vendor offers a complete solution.  Managing hosted virtual desktop environments today require tools and processes that are part server, part desktop and part "management goo".  We're already seeing management solutions evolve to meet this need and most vendors have roadmaps that include management software that can span both virtual and traditional desktop environments.  Vendors who can simplify management in heterogeneous installations of physical and virtual desktops will find success in 2010.

Achieving Critical Mass

As with any emerging solution businesses want to know who else is using it and how they have fared.  That has been a tough question to answer, but each small success enables the next. The ecosystem of System Integrators and VARs who implement VDI solutions has grown, and a solid body of best practices has been documented.  Reference customers will increase as proof of concept projects wrap up late this year and early next. 

There's no doubt that additional issues exist and more will undoubtedly crop up over time.  However the above roadblocks kept businesses from seriously considering VDI adoption in 2009.  With these roadblocks removed or seriously improved the market can finally move forward. The hosted virtual desktop ‘runway' is clear for 2010 and VDI is ready for take off.

About the Author

Bob Hoffman, President and Chief Operating Officer at Tranxition

Bob manages Tranxition's business and operations. He brings a 30 year track record in strategic development, M&A, finance and operations with public and private companies in the software, energy, telecom, and manufacturing sectors. While with JVNW Inc., Bob re-financed the company and improved processes to facilitate a 40 percent increase in sales and a 25 percent improvement in profit margins. As vice president of WTD Industries, Inc. he helped lead a turnaround that increased revenue 60 percent over two years and returned the company to profitability. While at Pacific Telecom, he completed a satellite sale/transponder leaseback and sold the company's cable television assets to generate capital with which he helped build an international private carrier business.

Published Wednesday, December 02, 2009 5:48 AM by David Marshall
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