Most desktop or laptop operating systems run all local applications and store user data on the machine's hard drive. Because the hard drive is accessible only to the user, this presents several problems for IT management. For example, it is difficult to patch, update, deploy and repair applications.
Desktop virtualization means the user's applications, data and sometimes OS run off a central server. The user's desktop runs a minimal OS that sends keyboard and mouse commands to a central server, which returns the video display output.
Typically, once set up, a virtualized desktop environment is much easier to manage than individual workstations. Desktop virtualization allows companies to rapidly provision, deploy, upgrade, back up and patch user environments hosted on a central server. It also allows a company to manage its assets and IT property more closely because it has a full inventory of its user base. Desktop virtualization may also offer cost savings on hardware and licensing.
For SMB clients, desktop virtualization can mean cost savings on desktop hardware because less-powerful or legacy hardware can essentially be used as terminals for virtual machines. Virtualization also makes a great deal of sense for remote workers who can access their user environment from many locations.
This was first published in December 2007