Few organisations currently run virtual desktop PCs within their IT infrastructure, but that is about to change. Virtualised desktops currently represent just 1% of PCs worldwide, with VMware View accounting for an estimated one million and Citrix XenDesktop about 850,000 and Microsoft Application Virtualisation (App-V) now starting to pick up customers as well.
IT departments might choose 2011 to make the move to virtual desktop PCs because it is expected to mark the release of the first service pack for Windows 7, which will prompt many to think about upgrading their hardware and operating systems. Companys have not upgraded their desktop operating systems since 2003/2004, with most running XP rather than Vista.
Many are considering either the traditional upgrade path to Windows 7 or using desktop virtualisation to give them an opportunity to develop their systems in a completely different way which provides more flexibility for end users and the readiness to make more use of cloud computing if and when they need it.
Some councils, universities, and police forces are embarking on an 18-month programme to virtualise the vast majority of its computing infrastructure, including servers, desktop PCs and storage. It is a greenfield implementation, where the existing desktop infrastructure is at end of life and we are not keeping too much of it. They are keen to keep the desktop to an absolutely minimum build and get applications centrally provisioned. The council can stream applications such as Microsoft Office and Corelogic's Framework case management system for adult social care to Citrix thin-client terminals running XenDesktop, which are easier to manage and maintain.
The biggest benefits of desktop virtualisation are faster desktop deployment, device and location flexibility, energy savings, data security and access control. Application testing, rollout, updating and patching is a time consuming task on desktop Pcs. Data storage is centralised on datacentre servers rather than on user desktops, making it easier to manage and backup for disaster recovery purposes. Applications are streamed to local desktops, but a local version of Microsoft Office, Email, and Adobe Reader are kept on the desktop PC just in case the network connection goes down.
Energy savings can be achieved by replacing larger desktop systems with low-power thin-client devices, either to reduce their carbon footprint, or to meet more more stringent power and space requirements in new premises. A thin-client desktop PC uses about 30W's of power compared to 300W's for a desktop PC.
Desktop virtualisation software also offers more flexibilty in allowing access to virtual systems and applications from a variety of mobile devices that provides for flexible and more modern working practises. Users are able to log into any PC or mobile device in any location rather than have their own PC on their desk. It does not necessarily represent a cheaper alternative to running desktop PCs.
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