Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: Getting It Right

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Desktop virtualization makes it possible to centralize control and simplify management, improve security and compliance, and minimize help desk calls. It isn't perfect for all types of users within the enterprise, but when deployed appropriately, desktop virtualization can unlock new capabilities that could never be achieved through traditional physical desktop solutions.

One of the key reasons enterprises fail to achieve many of the desired benefits of desktop virtualization is that they don't consider it a key element of the company's overall desktop strategy, but rather deploy it as a separate skunk works solution for IT. Or they deploy it to business users and in scenarios that are not well suited for a virtualized desktop solution.

13 desktop virtualization tools

Profiling users and business use cases is absolutely critical to targeting the right population within the enterprise to receive the most benefits or cost savings. For offshore developers or task workers, for example, securing and protecting (backing up, restoring, providing disaster recovery) critical corporate data in the data center is drastically simpler with a virtual solution versus a traditional desktop solution with local data.

And for new acquisitions, having the ability to provision desktop services with complete access to corporate data and applications the first day is achievable with desktop virtualization, but not with traditional physical desktop solutions.

Another common mistake is virtualizing an existing un-managed or poorly managed desktop environment. This expends resources only to create a virtual, un-managed environment that doesn't show the expected results. Creating a virtual desktop infrastructure within a well-managed environment can reduce support costs by more than eight times compared to a decentralized environment that requires onsite support.

One of the key misnomers is that desktop virtualization solutions should be deployed purely based on cost reduction. Desktop virtualization offers key benefits that simply couldn't be achieved today through traditional physical desktop solutions:

* Increases data security and compliance by reducing the risk of device and data being compromised. Data remains within the walls of the corporate datacenter instead of being widely distributed throughout branch offices, workstations, and mobile devices that are often lost or stolen.

* IT has more control of the desktop environment, which better enables it to lock it down more easily, quickly revoke access (to all data and applications at one time), provide a detailed access log for auditing and compliance, and comply with corporate and industry standards.

* Eases disaster recovery and plays a key part in business continuity. Workers are able to remotely access everything they need and continue working with minimal interruption following a disaster.

* Allows IT to meet the growing demands and needs of the business to provision desktops and services much faster. Establishing a dynamic computing environment is key to allowing IT to move from a business inhibitor to a business enabler while controlling costs.

Some of the cost reductions companies can experience from implementing desktop virtualization include:

CapEx

* When deploying new operating systems such as Microsoft Windows 7, desktop virtualization can extend the PC refresh cycle (from three years, to six to eight years) by enabling older corporate computers to run the latest software

* When replacing machines, desktop virtualization offers the ability to migrate to lower-cost clients or allow employees/contractors/etc. to use their own PCs through programs such as "bring your own computer." The IT mindset changes from managing the device to provisioning and managing the user, even on an unmanaged device.

* Simplifies business continuity and disaster-recovery planning for the distributed desktop environment and can leverage existing solutions and investments already established within the datacenter for mission critical applications.

OpEx

* Reduced IT staff costs due to fewer problems and more efficient, centralized support.

* Faster time to provision machines (new employees, during mergers and acquisitions, etc.)

* Fewer desktop hardware standards to support.

* Reduced cost of moves, adds and changes.

* Increased user productivity and satisfaction due to fewer problems and the ability to provide anywhere access from any device.

With the release of Windows 7, organizations are rethinking their desktop strategy. They need both the IT and business benefits offered and enabled by Windows 7. The majority of corporate desktops are running on solutions designed nine years ago when Windows XP first arrived in the market. Many of these environments can be improved even without virtualization.

Organizations need to focus on designing a holistic desktop strategy that enables a secure and highly managed desktop environment whereby they can quickly provision desktop services whether physically or virtually based on the user and business profile.

Having an integrated set of management, security, and support tools across the physical and virtual desktop environments is critical when trying to simplify and drive out costs. Desktop virtualization can be an important delivery and provisioning solution for key workloads and for desktop hardware that wouldn't otherwise support the new technology.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: Getting It Right" was originally published by Network World.

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