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Drive toward mobility is accelerating deployments of virtual desktop infrastructure

Desktop virtualization is becoming increasingly popular as employees bring tablets to work.

The pace of desktop and client virtualization deployments will pick up in 2012 as businesses of all sizes seek to more tightly manage and secure a growing diversity of mobile devices.

What’s more, solution providers say that Microsoft’s heightened attention to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is driving more discussion around these solutions and will help make them more cost-effective in coming months.

“We have been having these conversations for the last year and a half, but now businesses are starting to move forward,” said Guy Baroan, president of managed service provider Baroan Technologies, in Elmwood Park, N.J.

Microsoft’s tight integration of its desktop virtualization technology with its server-side offerings has more small companies thinking about exploiting those capabilities, say technology solution providers, especially when they consider upgrading hardware.

Two other leading vendors in this market, Citrix Systems and VMware, have also heightened their activity. In mid-December, VMware introduced new VMware View client software for the Kindle Fire tablet, Linux and the Macintosh. It also updated its Apple iPad and Android clients. The software extends Windows virtual desktops to a host of mobile and non-Windows client devices.

“We’re very excited about this release,” said Dale Starr, junior associate director of technology and support for Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass. “We’ve recently started deploying Mac computers in a managed configuration. One of the sticking points that users are commonly running into is software that only runs on Windows.”

Raj Mallempati, director of product marketing for enterprise desktop solutions with VMware, said there was a significant shift in perceptions about desktop virtualization platforms in 2011. “A significant number of customers were doing initial deployment and testing. They were trying to make sure that the technology performed as expected,” he said, adding that you should make sure you understand how to assess the opportunity for providing this.

For some, client and virtualization deployments are done to save money and capital costs. “The majority of my customers were thinking about putting in new equipment last year, but they held off because of the money,” said Darrel Bowman, CEO of, a managed service provider in Tacoma, Wash.

Hosted desktop virtualization has helped some of’s customers extend the life of older equipment, Bowman said. By opting for virtualized desktops delivered via a secure, audited data center, businesses are able to reuse older systems and address security concerns, he said. The tradeoff is that they need to ensure redundancy and high-bandwidth for their Internet connections.

Serving users is one key factor
A survey released in early December 2011 by Citrix indicated that the top factors driving businesses to consider desktop virtualization are security, the need to accommodate an increasingly mobile workface and simplified risk management. Approximately 55% of the companies surveyed by Citrix indicated that they planned to roll out new desktop virtualization projects by 2013; of those, 86% said that security was the primary driver.

One of the sticking points for virtual desktop infrastructure deployments has been the complexity of integrating these solutions, technology solution providers said. That was one rationale behind Citrix’s 2011 acquisition of Kaviza, which makes a “VDI-In-A-Box” solution for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

John Fanelli, vice president of product marketing for enterprise desktops and apps with Citrix, said the “bring your own device” to work movement is helping fuel the interest in client-side virtualization.

“People are coming to work and wondering how to use these devices,” he said. “We anticipate this same trend occurring for the SMB. What was thought of primarily as an enterprise movement is now going to be everywhere,” said Fanelli.

The challenge and opportunity for solution providers will be customizing configurations and applications so that they run optimally across a plethora of different devices, he said.

Mike Chase, chief technology officer for dinCloud Inc., a Los Angeles-based cloud service provider that has a virtual desktop service offering, said interest in desktop virtualization is driving more companies to consider hosted versions of these solutions. This is especially true for start-up organizations and companies looking to embrace a “zero capex” philosophy, he said. One area where hosted VDI can be very useful is in helping companies get a better handle on their software licenses, Chase added.

“Everything they told you that you couldn’t do on a virtual desktop, you can now do,” Chase said. “The hardware vendors are now fully on board with this concept.”

About the expert
Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist in the New York City area with more than 20 years’ experience. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. Clancy was previously editor at Computer Reseller News, a B2B trade publication covering news and trends about the high-tech channel.

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