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Determining your desktop virtualization strategy

As desktop virtualization develops, you should have a firm desktop virtualization strategy in place and know how your business opportunities will differ from server virtualization.

As the desktop virtualization market continues to evolve with new technologies, now is the time to develop a solid desktop virtualization strategy for customers considering implementation. In this Q&A, SearchSystemsChannel.com Assistant Editor Pat Ouellette discusses with Entisys Solutions Inc. President and CEO Mike Strohl how to create business opportunities with desktop virtualization and how it compares to server virtualization. Read the best ways to recommend desktop virtualization to customers and find out which stage the market is currently in.

SearchSystemsChannel.com: Do you think companies are getting more comfortable with the concept of desktop virtualization?

Mike Strohl: [Executives] are getting more comfortable with the concept. They are adding [a desktop virtualization strategy] to their planning process and they are, in many cases, adopting their first phase of desktop virtualization.

Solution providers have had great success in helping customers with server virtualization. Do you think they will have the same business opportunities with desktop virtualization?

Strohl: There are similar opportunities with desktop virtualization for solution providers to have a lot of success. [But] when you look at the target audience that's influenced by desktop virtualization implementation, you have [system and the application users] whom you have to satisfy, as opposed to systems administrators on the back end of a server infrastructure. As such, there are opportunities for a lot more consulting as well as a lot more product sales.

How will a desktop virtualization strategy differ from a server virtualization strategy?

Strohl: It is a different skill set when it comes to how you approach the solutions themselves, how you build a desktop virtualization strategy and how you execute [it] on the customers you have.

Is there a timeline for taking advantage of desktop virtualization opportunities?

Strohl: The time is now and we're definitely in phase one of customer deployments. Customers are acquiring licenses, they're completing proof of concepts and they're deploying their (if you want to call them) pilots. They really are in their first stage of production of desktop virtualization solutions. This is where they're taking what they think will happen and they're identifying what the actual impact of it will be on real users, and, if approached correctly, [they] go through the process of then optimizing their foundation so they can then begin to scale it to the greater population of users.

We've seen slow adoption of virtual desktop technology. One reason is that it's just a bear to fit all the pieces into a seamless solution. Do you see that as changing?

Strohl: You have to look at what you mean by a seamless solution. At the server side of things, a seamless solution is kind of one platform, one foundation. On the desktop side of things, it's a little different because the word "seamless" only [applies] to the end users.

An end user is the person who is going to log in every single day and produce results for the company they're working for at any given point in time. So, for that category of user, so to speak, which is what applies to desktop virtualization, seamless means they arrive at work, turn their computer on, see their desktop, access their applications, and they work not knowing whether or not they're coming to a virtual machine or a physical machine.

What process should solution providers follow when recommending virtual desktop technology to IT managers?

Strohl: We actually follow a bake-off process that includes a full evaluation of all types of virtual desktop technologies. [They] could ask us what to use, and we'll do an assessment and tell them, but there's a lot of perceptions out there. You have a lot of companies that have a VMware server foundation, you have a lot of companies that have Citrix unlimited access [and] you have a lot of companies that are using [Microsoft].

There is a lot of information out there, and because you're dealing with a market where adoption is still in the early stages, we like to have customers look at all of the technologies from two perspectives: one, from the foundation perspective, [for example], what they want to do with it today; and two, from the standpoint of how they may scale it in the future, [whether] or not the technical foundation will actually support the organization as a whole.

If we get them into that mindset, and have them evaluate and plan their desktops not just from a virtualization standpoint but a strategy standpoint, too, then they go through a process and figure out just how to build their foundation, even if what they're using may be more than what they need for [today].

Is there one desktop virtualization offering that you would pick over another?

Strohl: There are a lot of good answers to that, and I'm going to take the high road on this one. A lot of companies have their administrators trained and knowledgeable on the VMware platform as a whole -- the ESX platform and the vSphere platform. Because of that, there is a comfort level [with] working within that infrastructure. At the same time, there are functions within the Citrix and XenDesktop platform that deal with a lot of critical use cases in applications -- things like high-end graphics flash, connecting devices, working over remote lines, working with a variety of end-user devices.

All those things may not be the centerpiece for customers, but they are critical components to a more holistic solution that covers short-term requirements and long-term customer objectives. So, you're kind of looking to see what both companies have for strengths in terms of their impact. It really does come down to where a customer is going with it and what their comfort level is [when] working with either their existing platform or a new one.

About the expert
Mike Strohl is the president and CEO of Entisys Solutions
Inc., a Calif.-based virtualization consulting company that was named as North American Partner of the Year by Citrix Systems Inc. in 2007 and VMware Inc. in 2005 and 2006.

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