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Desktop virtualization: look before you leap

From the experts | Posted on July 23, 2010 by Steve McDonald

At a recent Softchoice-hosted conference in Toronto, customers turned up in droves to learn about one thing – the virtual desktop.

If the popularity of this event signals one thing it’s that interest in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has reached a tipping point. And for good reason. A look at the average desktop environment will tell you why so many are giving serious consideration to this shift in computing.

A recent Softchoice study of over 900,000 PCs paints a startling picture: in the average corporate environment 38 percent of system warranties have expired. That number will climb to 54 percent within six months suggesting PC refresh cycles have been stretched to their limit. On the software side, 98 percent are still running Windows XP – an OS about to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Simply put, companies are at a crossroads. Today, there are more choices for how to deliver the desktop to end users– from upgrading to Windows 7 and replacing aging fat clients, to combining application virtualization with some local computing power, to deploying VDI or, more realistically, a combination of all three. The question is no longer “Should I refresh my infrastructure,” but “How?”

The benefits of VDI are many. With most of the computing happening in the data center you get greater performance, easier manageability, tighter security and lower operating costs. But before taking the leap, it’s worth understanding that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

For this reason a methodical assessment is key. It will not only help clarify the business case, it will also ensure unnecessary pitfalls are avoided. A detailed analysis of existing infrastructure is the first step. From there, the needs of end users should be given careful consideration, since each demands its own unique treatment.

Because a blended approach will be the most common outcome, understanding user requirements is essential. Taking time here will also identify the various protocols needed to ensure the optimal computing experience, along with any compatibility issues with respect to directory and authentication services. Finally, special consideration must be given to how the change in systems makeup will affect established IT policies and controls.

To be clear, desktop virtualization is compelling but it is not a cure all. However, with a reliable partner and a methodical approach, the opportunity to drive efficiency by aligning the computing experience to the needs of the business has never been better.

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