Desktop virtualization is one of the hottest topics in enterprises today. It provides many benefits, including extending the life of your desktops, lowering costs by switching to thin-client devices and making applications compatible. Before I get deep into the issues of desktop virtualization, I want to make sure we're all on the same page as to what the technology really is.
In desktop virtualization the operating system, applications or data is separated from the physical computer. There are several methods: virtualizing applications with tools such as Microsoft App-V or Citrix Systems XenApp, virtualizing data through redirected folders, or virtualizing operating systems by using Terminal Services, Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization or VMware's Ace. Another virtualization method is to create a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment.
My personal favorite is to use a little bit of each -- for example, by creating virtual desktops in the data center on a hypervisor, using Microsoft App-V or Citrix XenApp for my applications and redirecting my users' folders to a central location. With all of these tools, my users' operating environment ultimately becomes a shell and I can quickly create and delete desktops on the fly.
Despite the many options for desktop virtualization, it really isn't the solution to all of your desktop management problems. As with all technologies, desktop virtualization still has issues that you need to prepare for. Although desktop virtualization is one of the best things any enterprise can do, it is important to understand the potential problems prior to implementation. So without further ado, here are the top five desktop virtualization issues:
Issue 1: Desktop virtualization end-user experience
In many organizations, IT groups tend to forget about the end-user experience. We've all heard the jokes that IT would be the best job if it wasn't for the end users. Well, the end users are generally the people who are bringing money into the company by doing sales, shipping or billing. For users doing primarily text-based work, desktop virtualization has been a great technology. For higher-end 3-D modeling, graphics design and video production work, desktop virtualization hasn't always made the cut. However, vendors have been making big improvements in the end-user experience.
Issue 2: Licensing for desktop virtualization and VDI
I don't know about you, but even I don't have a decoder ring to figure out the cryptic licensing terms for desktop virtualization, and I work with it every day. You can use some desktop virtualization features, such as folder redirection, without additional licensing, but when you start using a VDI product or virtualizing applications, you'll need to obtain more licenses. For example, with VDI, you must purchase the connection broker license, the Windows desktop operating system license and the Microsoft VDI license. If you are going to use thin clients, you have to purchase thin clients and any licensing you need for them. If you have an enterprise agreement and Software Assurance, Microsoft's licensing isn't all that bad. If you've bought your desktops and use the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) licenses with your desktops, you unfortunately can't use those OEM licenses with VDI, and you'll have to purchase new licenses. Spend time with your Microsoft licensing specialist to determine which licenses you need and which ones you can reuse.
Read the rest of the top five virtual desktop environment management issues.
About the expert
Jason Kappel is an infrastructure architect and virtualization expert at Avanade Inc. He specializes in enterprise infrastructure and data center optimization, virtualization and systems management. He has worked with some of the largest companies in the world to implement green data center solutions and has implemented several multinational server and desktop virtualization systems.