Applied Desktop Virtualisation

Perceptions, reality and practicality

Published/updated: January 2011

By Tony Lock & Dale Vile


With desktop refresh now on the agenda, the virtualisation option comes into focus
Many organisations skipped a turn of the desktop refresh cycle as a result of economic pressure and reluctance to implement Windows Vista. With the prospect of purse strings loosening along with the broad acceptance of Windows 7, desktop upgrades are once again on the agenda. This opens the door to consider desktop virtualisation as a complementary deployment option.

But limited awareness and insight are holding up progress
Desktop virtualisation solutions have been progressing steadily, but the level of adoption over 2010 has still been relatively modest. One big challenge is the patchy understanding of the options. IT professionals have a good handle on established solutions such as Terminal Services, but insight into other important forms of desktop virtualisation is limited. As a result, those without experience often make false assumptions that stand in the way of progress.

The divergence of perception from reality is clear in some very important areas
In the absence of practical experience, IT professionals tend to generally under-estimate the relevance and value of, and over-estimate the challenges associated with desktop virtualisation. In particular, those that have never deployed such technology are more likely to discount it as an option for more demanding user types, even though experienced adopters have often deployed to those same segments successfully. In reality, a blended approach is the most effective, based on mixing and matching traditional desktops with relevant virtualisation options to meet different user needs.

More attention needs to be paid to building comprehensive business cases
While everyone is looking for short term ROI, making a business case for investment in a comprehensive desktop virtualisation strategy based on direct savings alone can often only be achieved if a longer view is taken. This is because for server based virtualisation options in particular, significant up-front investment in server, storage and networking infrastructure is likely to be required, whilst the returns accumulate steadily over time. A more robust business case can be built by increasing the scope. The impact of enabling modern working practices such as hot-desking, efficient home and remote working, and secure mobile access, are often significant. Direct savings can potentially be made on real-estate and travel, as well as an increased contribution of value through the boosting of end user productivity.

Taking the broader view, another way to think of desktop virtualisation is therefore as a natural element of any working practice modernisation and efficiency programme.

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