Virtualization Technology News and Information
The Data Behind the Shift from Virtual Desktops to Virtual Apps

By Robb Henshaw, Co-Founder & CMO of Cameyo

Here we are, on the cusp of one of the biggest workplace transformations in history. Four out of every ten employees around the world have switched to remote work in the past year, and according to one Global Workplace Analytics survey, as many as three quarters of them might never return to the office. What we're experiencing now is the kind of seismic workforce shift that's likely to be studied in economics courses for decades to come.

Large-scale changes like this call for new practices and new technologies. For the past 25 years, most organizations have supported remote computing through virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). And VDI was generally adequate for the small percentage of users who needed or wanted remote access prior to 2020. It provided them with a familiar desktop interface on a standardized client, and that was just enough to stay productive until they were back in the office.

From an IT standpoint, however, VDI was (and remains) overkill for most scenarios. As its name suggests, it requires additional infrastructure. That in turn demands more IT staff, more hardware, more licensing, more resources, more costs. Furthermore, when it comes to the needs of the average user, virtual desktops are a clear case of overprovisioning. It's like handing someone the keys to an 18-wheeler when all they want is a fuel-efficient hybrid sedan.

DaaS: VDI by another name

In recent years, virtual desktop solutions have morphed into desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). DaaS leverages the cloud to deliver some of the same benefits of VDI but with slightly less complexity and lower CapEx budgeting.

Despite these advantages, DaaS still doesn't address the overprovisioning issue. What the majority of users need is secure access to a select pool of business-critical apps. Yet DaaS gives them a full-blown desktop whether they want it or not.

The additional problem that remains unsolved by both DaaS and VDI is device agnosticism. Long before COVID-19 hit, organizations were struggling to get to grips with the proliferation of mobile devices. The user that was once content with a Windows desktop now had a Chromebook, an iPhone and an Android tablet. And they wanted to toggle between those devices seamlessly throughout the day.

Of course, that's easier said than done. As organizations attempted to adopt Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, IT wound up saddled with having to find some way to support their variety without having to divert even more staff time to do it. When BYOD employees went remote and began working out of very different home environments, that only multiplied the number of variables that IT had to contend with.

Apps, the new paradigm

The massive uptake of mobile devices has had another important and far-reaching effect. It's changed how users approach computing. Today, the OS is more or less an afterthought. Instead users think almost entirely in terms of apps.

Trends like these have given rise to a robust new paradigm for remote computing: Virtual App Delivery. Departing from the practice of foisting a full desktop experience on users by default, Virtual App Delivery is a strategic solution that gives users convenient access to specific apps on any device in any location. This solves the perennial problems of overprovisioning and device agnosticism in one fell swoop.

The data behind the shift

Virtual Application Delivery has not just established itself as a strong alternative to Virtual Desktops - data also shows we're currently in the middle of a shift from Virtual Desktops to Virtual App Delivery.

First, let's start with the current breakdown of usage between Virtual Desktops and Virtual apps. Here's what the 2021 "VDI Like a Pro" report (the EUC industry's largest annual independent survey) shows:


As you can see, Virtual Desktops are currently still the predominant technology utilized today - but things get really interesting when you look at a later question in the 2021 report that asks about these organizations' future plans:


The survey data shows that 16.95% of the organizations that are currently utilizing Virtual Desktops solutions plan to shift from Virtual Desktops to Virtual Apps. When you add that 16.95% to the 32.46% of organizations who've already chosen Virtual Apps over Virtual Desktops, that would bring the percentages to 50.6% for Virtual Desktops and 49.4% for Virtual Application Delivery. A nearly 50/50 split.

And for additional context, let's take a look at the 2020 data. In the 2020 report, only 5.9% of organizations were focused solely on Virtual Application Delivery:

use desktops or published apps 

Granted, in 2021 the report did not include the chart above, and seemed to simplify the question to identify simply whether the org's end users relied on Virtual Desktops or Virtual Apps. One way to look at it is that in 2020 only 5.9% of orgs said that 100% of their users relied on Virtual Apps, whereas 32.46% of orgs said their people rely on Virtual Apps in 2021. That's a nearly 6x increase in just one year.

Even if you add up all of the responses from 2020 that said a "majority" of users relied on Virtual Apps vs. Virtual Desktops, that number was just under 22% in 2020 compared to 32.46% in 2021. 

Regardless, the fact that nearly 17% of today's Virtual Desktop users plan to shift to Virtual App Delivery, bringing Virtual Desktops & Virtual Apps to parity at a 50/50 split of the market, is astounding.

Just 1-2 years ago, Virtual App Delivery wasn't even its own category - it was rolled into Virtual Desktops, which has been the touted technology for two decades. To see such a rapid market shift from two decades of Virtual Desktop traction to Virtual Apps becoming the focus for 50% of the market in just 2 years begs the question - why are we now seeing such rapid adoption of Virtual App Delivery?

The simple reality is that Virtual Desktops are and always have been focused on a very specific subset of the market - the 15-20% of power users who have specific workload needs that require a full Virtual Desktop. But for 80% of the market, Virtual Desktops are overkill from both a cost and complexity perspective. That 80% of the market primarily needs secure access to all of the critical apps that they need to productively do their job on any device.

How Virtual App Delivery can help

Compared to VDI and DaaS, Virtual App Delivery has the following key advantages:

  • Lower costs: When it comes to the costs of upfront infrastructure and ongoing licensing, Virtual Application Delivery platforms can cut them by up to 75%. Over half of the respondents to the ESG survey also reported that their VDI/DaaS deployments required 10+ full-time employees. By contrast, virtual apps can be deployed and administered by one person.
  • Tighter security: VDI and DaaS introduce new, complex infrastructure that can create security gaps. Virtual app delivery is inherently much more streamlined and maintains a small footprint-with solutions like Cameyo leveraging the native browser to give remote users easy, secure access to Windows and internal web apps.

That's encouraged more and more organizations to migrate away from VDI or DaaS in favor of Virtual App Delivery. In fact, Virtual App Delivery is likely to reach parity of adoption within a few years.

The right tool for the job

The evolution of remote computing from VDI to DaaS to Virtual App Delivery doesn't mean that older technologies have to be abandoned altogether. It actually means that organizations have more choice than ever before.

For example, organizations can scale down their existing VDI or DaaS deployments to cater exclusively to the small pool of power users who still need the full desktop experience. Those same organizations can also use Virtual App Delivery alongside virtual desktops to give the majority of users the secure, seamless access they need to all of their business-critical apps.

This more balanced approach creates a rich digital workspace ecosystem that empowers users with the precise tools they need to stay connected and productive-on any device, from any location. And that kind of cost-effective flexibility is exactly what's needed for the hybrid and remote workforces that are taking shape as we speak.


About the Author

Robb Henshaw 

Robb Henshaw is Co-Founder & CMO of Cameyo where he oversees all global marketing initiatives. His team is responsible for all branding, demand gen, communications, channel marketing, customer advocacy, and enablement at Cameyo. Robb brings 18 years of marketing and communications experience across the SaaS, IoT, and wireless industries with a track record of developing emerging brands from challengers, to thought leaders, to market leaders. 

Prior to Cameyo, Robb was the Head of Global Communications for the IoT Business unit at Cisco, where he led messaging strategy, PR, AR, corporate communications, and social marketing efforts. Robb joined Cisco when they acquired his previous company, IoT platform leader Jasper, for $1.4B in 2016. Before joining Jasper, Robb was VP of Marketing at GetGoing (acquired by BCD Travel), Director of Global Communications at SugarSync (acquired by J2 Global), and Sr. Director of Global Marketing at publicly-traded Proxim Wireless.  

Robb is a member of the Forbes Technology Council, has authored dozens of articles on SaaS technologies & trends, and was a technical editor of the 2017 "IoT Fundamentals" book. 
Published Thursday, July 01, 2021 7:34 AM by David Marshall
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