Is There a Business Case To Be Made In Favour of Virtualising the Desktop?

If you are looking at desktop/notebook replacement or optimisation now, what are the options and considerations that should be on your mind as you weigh up the options? As one of my colleagues stated a day or two ago, “given that so much has come to market over the last 12 months, not forgetting developments at Citrix, Microsoft as well as VMware, at one level, it is all very exciting and full of possibilities, at another, it bloody confusing!” So what are the options?

Well the “straightforward” option might be to simply replace all desktops and laptops in a like for like switch and consider moving to Windows Vista. At one level this offers simplicity of change in as much as the new operating system is unlikely to pose to a major headache for users. However before such a transition be attempted it is absolutely essential that a thorough evaluation of application compatibility be undertaken. There are some clear management benefits that can be achieved with Vista, especially in the area of policy setting , particularly around power management. However as an interesting side note, one senior IT director mentioned that had made the decision to defer a move to XP SP2 because of application compatibility issues. For his organisation the move from XP SP1 to Vista apparently holds fewer problems due to the superior sand boxing in Vista (i.e. you really can run things reliably in compatibility mode). To put it another way, he said more of their XP SP1 applications ran successfully under Vista without modification than under XP SP2.

However, there are now many alternatives to running “standard” desktops and laptops. Great to have choices, but it does make life a little more complex. Such alternatives include, but are by no means limited to, application streaming, desktop virtualisation, application virtualisation, virtual machine plus application capture, and a more traditional terminal service driven application approach to name but a few. But our research shows that it is not simple to make a business case for going down the ’virtualised desktop’ route. That mix of solutions holds lots of potential cost savings in management, and possibly in hardware too. But, and it is very big but, it is hard to make a case for some of the newer elements therein and especially on the new management tools for virtualised desktop that are only just beginning to trickle out.

We are also seeing that it is a prime objective for CIOs to make solid ’NOW’ business cases which I and several of my colleagues suspect means that we will only see a slow take up of desktop virtualisation solutions unless there are extremely clear forcing factors to accelerate adoption. It is now clear that CIOs are extremely reluctant to base any investment case on futures or too many assumptions reflecting just how hard nosed business stakeholders are nowadays.

Thus there is now a clear onus on desktop virtualisation vendors and, indeed, on the analyst community to help explain just what options are available, where they fit, where each is inappropriate and, perhaps most importantly of all, what is the business case for adopting such solutions. No small job here then.

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