The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray? - Brian Madden -
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The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?

Written on Sep 08 2011 14,290 views, 18 comments

by Brian Madden

There's a lot of hype about this whole concept of "desktop transformation"--the idea that we can use new technologies like desktop virtualization to break out of the tyrannical  install-deploy-fix-repeat desktop cycle.

But the unfortunate reality is that for all the hype about "desktop transformation" (or whatever you want to call it), there's still a very small number of people actually doing it. Even if you combine all the various desktop virtualization (and related technologies) together, we're probably looking at what, just a few million (10-15m at most?) of the world's traditional business desktops that have been totally replaced by VDI/client VM/Wanova/whatever? (And for this I'm not talking about all the View or XenDesktop users in "production" where the user also has a traditional desktop. I mean the honest-to-goodness, 100% traditional desktop replacement with some fancy new thing.) If you figure there are 500-700 million corporate desktops in the world, what are we looking at for total percentage of "real" desktop transformation? Two percent? Three? Man... it's nothing!

And I'm certainly part of the crowd pushing people away from this. While I spent most of 2009 and 2010 talking about the importance of doing Windows 7 and desktop virtualization together, I've backed off a bit this year as most people are more focused on getting to Windows 7 and less focused on virtualizing their desktops. (After all, if April 8, 2014 comes along and a company hasn't gotten off of Windows XP, someone's going to get fired. But the same risk isn't there for not virtualizing desktops by then.)

What's interesting about all this is that despite the minuscule quantities of desktops that have actually been "transformed," we know that there actually is a better way to manage and deliver desktops. We can do Windows desktops more securely, cheaply, and with better management than the current / old way.

The problem is that this isn't what the Big 3 (Citrix, VMware, and Microsoft) are selling today. Citrix seems all hopped up on iPads and zero clients, while VMware is focused on the end user computing environment of the post-PC era. Neither of these really address the fact that the vast majority (95%... 99%?) of business desktop users still run Windows locally on their laptops and desktops. And it's going to be that way for awhile. Heck, it's even happening at Citrix and VMware. How many Citrix and VMware employees do you know that have replaced their local desktop with a remote one?

Microsoft is perhaps a bit better, although really they're so busy looking over their shoulder and figuring out how to transform their business that they're starting to react and look more like Citrix & VMware. Microsoft certainly isn't driving the conversation around desktop transformation and what's real and what's hype, as I guess they've jumped on the "hype sells" bandwagon.

And of course we have about a hundred smaller vendors in this space, most of them operating on the "try to stay in business until we get bought," mentality. This is fine enough, but since each of them only solves a very specific problem or addresses a narrow use case, we're left with a feeling of dogmatic extremism as we walk from booth-to-booth at these huge shows meeting all the desktop vendors.

So what do we do?

I'm going to come right out and say it. I don't believe that the datacenter-based desktop, VDI or otherwise, will make sense for the masses anytime soon. Yes, I agree with Chetan that the majority of Windows desktops will ultimately end up in the datacenter. But for this current wave of desktop migrations centered around Windows 7, I just don't see it. I'm just not convinced that the masses will move away from running Windows on client devices in the next few years.

Now, a few caveats:

  • Yes, there will continue to be use cases for datacenter-based desktops like VDI and RDSH. And yes, those will probably even increase over the next few years. But for the near future, those will continue to be accessory desktops and apps provided in addition to a locally-running desktop. ANd for users where the datacenter-based desktop replaces the locally running desktop, that will still be a very small (a few percent) of desktops for the next few years.
  • Running local desktops doesn't mean we "give up" and just continue the status quo. We can use client hypervisors (Type 1 or Type 2), app virtualization, user virtualization, layering, etc. to improve the manageability, security, and overall experience. But local is where it's at.

Who will drive this conversation?

Well, me, for starters I guess.. ha ha. But who else could drive this?

I'd love for it to be Microsoft, but I feel like they're suspect. Really they just want to get Windows 7 in everyone's hands and then convince everyone that they should move to Windows 8, so I'm not sure they're in a position to say "This is the way to go." Especially if partners are pushing other directions.

I don't think it's going to be Citrix, as I mentioned earlier, because they seem really hopped up on the datacenter-based desktops with zero clients and iPads, although they might have something if they can get their act together with XenClient. (Although unfortunately I feel like XenClient for Citrix is them essentially extending the datacenter-based desktop onto a laptop, which is the wrong approach. I like VIrtual Computer's approach better since they're using a client hypervisor purely as a container for desktop management, but they're one of the hundreds of smaller vendors shouting for attention, and they're certainly not going to drive the conversation at the industry level.

I also don't think it's going to be VMware, because like I mentioned earlier, when it comes to desktops they seem to only really be focused on the post-PC era. They're really thinking "datacenter" (or "cloud") for everything, and their only real local desktop option is the View Local Mode crap, but even that's just viewed as a temporary use thing for the few times that a user is offline. (And View Local Mode requires Windows on the client?!?!?? So WTF, ya know? You're not replacing anything with this.) At the end of the day, VMware has 9,000 employees, and while all technically have access to a View desktop, very few (if any) have actually replaced their local desktop with a View desktop. So again, that's fine, but they're not leading us down the desktop transformation path from 2011-2014.

So who does that leave? Intel? I saw Intel at VMworld. They have this "intelligent desktop virtualization" thing which once you get through the marketing crap actually has a few good points, namely:

  1. Manage centrally, execute locally
  2. Layered images, delivered intelligently
  3. Use as many device-native capabilities as possible

This I actually like because it's applicable to all environments. You can kind of combine the first and third points, which is something I've been driving home for awhile. If your device has X capability, you probably want to use it. (The "X" can be a GPU, storage, camera, multi-touch, finger print, encryption system, whatever..) I mean no sense buying an expensive client and then doing all the work on the server (which is expensive and leads to a bad user experience).

And I like the concept of the layered images. I'm not talking about "end-to-end" layering here, but just the idea of some user virtualization, app virtualization, maybe a hypervisor to be able to leverage the local device capabilities while separating out the management.

Ok, so Intel has a good story here, which I guess makes sense since I assume they'd like to sell lots of processors on rich clients or whatever they're calling them. But I'm fine with that, because as a user, I want my client to be as rich as possible. I mean it's why I replaced my iPad with an iPad 2 and why I'm now scheming to replace my Droid 2 with a Droid 3. As a user, I like a rich client! Zero would suck for me.

But can Intel drive the conversation in the marketplace? Dunno. I'm not really sure that's what they do. It seems like they're attached to Citrix and the other vendors at the hip (joint booths a shows, co-marketing), so I don't know if they can break out their own message or not.

So I guess that leaves me:

Brian's 2011 message on desktop transformation

Here we go, in random order:

  • We have to get to Windows 7 before April 8, 2014. There's not enough time to totally "transform" your whole world. People are used to running Windows locally on their laptops and desktops. Keep doing that.
  • Leverage some of the desktop virtualization technologies to do that in a better way. Maybe it's app virtualization. Maybe it's user environment virtualization. Maybe it's a client hypervisor. Maybe it's one of the layer things like MokaFive or Wanova. But do that now.
  • Still strive for that many-to-1 management goal. Yeah, you can punt and stay 1-to-1, or P2V your existing environment to a 1-to-1. But there are better ways to apply and least some layering elements to get past that.
  • If you must put desktops in the datacenter, remember that you can still leverage local capabilities. Local multimedia, 3D, media streaming, VOIP, etc.
  • iPads and Androids for accessing Windows-based desktops are fun toys. Don't be too distracted by them. You can build secondary desktops in your datacenter for those who really need that type of access, but don't throw away the local desktop just to enable a rare iPad use case. (Remember iPads with LogMeIn are great "VDI" too.)
  • Yeah, eventually Windows will be banished to the datacenter. Apps will be SaaS/HTML5/RIA/whatever. That will be awesome. In 2014. But for now, just keep running locally. You can't beat it. Just manage it better.

Bottom line: We are all going to keep running locally for awhile. That's fine. Do what you can to manage that better. But don't go nuts. (We can go nuts next time around in 2014.)


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Claudio Rodrigues wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 8 2011 12:01 PM Link To This Comment

Well well well. So what happend with the prediction that VDI would take over the IT world as we know it in 2010? :-)

Your updated article in 2010 called for another check in 2011. Well here we are now and guess what? As I posted back in Jan, 2010 ( this may happen way further down the road.

Regarding Intel, I still think they are the ones that hold the key to the next generation of what we today call a desktop. Remember the Neocleus acquisition? McAfee? Even my fictional post about Intel buying Citrix ( shows where we can be heading to if Intel does decide to take the lead on all this.

Regarding Microsoft the key thing in my mind is how the next desktop will affect the OEM relationship between them and all the HW manufacturers. This accounts for a huge chunk of Microsof't's revenue and anything that may threaten such cash cow will not be seen with good eyes in Redmond. If all the sudden a new desktop model does not require Windows Next or whatever it is called to be on all these devices, then what? A new licensing scheme? A new desktop tax from Microsoft?

Hard to say at this stage.


DionMes wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 8 2011 12:37 PM Link To This Comment

I can just give a very simple reply, and I do know about the debate regarding the ROI and TCO numbers. But the CEOs and ICT managers I encounter are still battling with the investment. They find it easier to explain in the current economic climate to just go ahead in the traditional way. In my opinion the initial investment in hardware, storage and licenses are the biggest obstacle to embrace the desktop transformation model.

vesk wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 8 2011 1:00 PM Link To This Comment

Brian…  I normally agree with much of what you say in your blogs.  When I disagree, I can normally see your point of view.  But after reading this post, I have to kindly say that I disagree with a lot of it, and this isn’t just my opinion, this is from pure fact finding through running a business, let me explain.

You think that only a few % of desktops are virtualised.  I don’t want to name too many names here, but I’ve consulted some of the largest banks in the UK on desktop virtualisation.  I know at least 3 of them who have completely replaced their local desktops with virtual desktops.  I know companies such as Bloomberg with thousands of staff have completely replaced their local desktops with virtual.  In London we have a working population of circa 8 million, and way way more than a few % have virtualised.  I know that other countries haven’t followed suit but there must be one million virtual desktops in the UK.  I know one of the largest banks in the UK are running virtual desktops with 25,000 users.

A few % of 500m desktops virtualised is inaccurate.

I run one of the largest providers of virtual desktops in the UK.  I’m a realist and always have been, I’m not replying to this post to benefit myself or change people’s minds or opinions, I’m simply pointing out the facts.  A competitor of mine in the US, who’s CEO is now actually a very good friend of mine is implementing 10,000+ desktops at a time, he has large universities such as UCL and other large public and private sector organisations in the US.  I know that Orange and IBM in the UK are implementing complete virtual desktop replacements with 20,000+ users at a time.

Meryl Lynch have just put an order into Wyse Computing for 120,000 Zero thin clients !  These figures can’t be ignored and again, it’s way more than a few % as you mentioned.

Our company is growing very quickly, we have companies in the UK with 500+ users who have completely replaced their entire infrastructure of local PC’s with virtual desktops.

Another point you mentioned is that the small vendors are “trying to stay in business until we get bought”.  I totally agree with this in many cases.  But in our case, we do not want to sell any part of our business and we have had several uninvited offers.  We have managed without any external investment at all, and now we’re at a point of profitability where we will never need it.  I want to create a work environment that inspires creativity and pulls in the best brains in the business, rather than selling out in the next 3 years.

You also mentioned that users will run a virtual desktop in addition to a local desktop.  Every single end user we have taken on, has completely replaced their local desktop because they don’t need it.  Through some clever tweaking our end, plus the HDX stack, we can now get high quality video running through our desktops, even over broadband.  Admittedly a fat client is needed, but the experience users get from our desktop is as good as a local desktop and in some cases, better.

So when you mention “local is where it’s at” I categorically disagree.  We just took on a local council in London, we have cut their IT costs by 65% because they had so many costs to so many different IT providers and vendors.  We created 4 golden images and published/replicated these to 800 staff.  They have been live now for 4 months and love the technology.

A real key point here Brian is that I feel you are pigeon holing the virtual desktop...  It's simple, there will never be a "one size fits all", zero clients are EXCELLENT for some, but absolute garbage for others.  We push zero Wyse thin clients, some businesses they work very well for who don’t require high res video, but want to reduce their electricity consumption by 95% and comply with social and corporate responsibility by being “green”.  That word has been well over-egg’d, but they do reduce power which can only be a good thing.  They’re simple to manage, no OS means not much can go wrong, the central management console is free for up to 1,000 users, they’re cheap to purchase and last at least twice as long as fat PC’s as they have no moving parts.  BUT for media companies, or staff who like watching YouTube videos for research purposes (or in their lunch breaks) then zero clients wont work, and the user would need a fatter, rich client PC.  Admittedly, zero clients aren’t always great with printers or sometimes we may need to setup a scanner differently or setup AD in a different way, there’s always a bespoke part to the setup which makes the implementations more challenging.

The point I am making is that all businesses require something different.  And so far, every client we have offered virtual desktops too we have found a solution, whether it’s entirely Mac-based, or thin client based or a mixture, it doesn’t matter.  We can always find a solution.  I am not plugging my business here, if you’ve noticed I’ve not even mentioned the company name of which I have shares in, I am telling you my honest thoughts.  I am always first to admit if/when I see a problem with VDI as I have a keen interest and as I mentioned I’m a realist and I enjoy looking at both sides.

I agree that we will need rich clients, especially when 3D desktop and hologram desktops are released, they will require 3 or 4 times the resource of current desktops, so rich clients will be here for the foreseeable future.

All I know is my company is currently working on a dozen 200+ user deployments and tendering for 4 x 5k plus virtual desktop implementations.  You also mention that VMWare don’t use virtual desktops, well I can’t actually comment but I know that Citrix do because I presented at their head office about 2 months ago.  I walked round their office as I know most of the senior management level, they all use XA/XD.  Admittedly, when presenting to me I’ve seen them use their local desktop, you and I both know XenClient isn’t ready yet for full client/server sync.  But I also know the staff upload any changes they make offline to their local desktop.

ALL staff in my company have replaced their local desktop with their virtual desktop.  It has made my life SO much easier, we run all desktops through high IOPS SSD’s so our SLA is performance-based as well as availability-based meaning our desktops are always quick and never have any lag, unless the Internet is slow of course, even then things like Speed Screen help.

I setup and sold a web company around 10 years ago that helped people travelling through London, I used to receive daily emails telling me how much the service helped people (a rare type of email to get in business).  When I sold the business I didn’t think the same would happen again, but I now receive emails telling me people couldn’t live without their virtual desktop.  They don’t have to worry about taking laptops home, or security or backup…  They can scale up and down their business as and when, they can open branch offices with no associated cost etc etc.  All clients from last year renewed their annual contract with us apart from one.

There are people who virtual desktops are overkill for.  I’ve turned down business when a company calls us who has one office, no one works remotely or out of hours.  They may as well keep their IT in-house, if it’s not broken don’t fix it.  I only like selling our product if it has immediate benefits.  But I’ve seen Microsoft’s Think Tank, I’ve met the Thought Leaders at Citrix, these guys aren’t placing their billion $ businesses in the cloud for no reason.  Agreed MS are so concerned with pushing Windows 7 out, not necessarily virtually (in fact they don’t like us streaming Windows 7 a client OS, they make us pay for VA/SL and VDA AND they stipulate the desktops have to be on their own servers, not good when our servers cost £12k each and we have a 10 or 20 user enquiry ! but that’s a separate discussion).  But desktops are moving to the cloud, the benefits simply outweigh local desktops.  We add everything onto the virtual desktop from DR, licenses, IT support, applications the lot…  Managing this in-house is a big overhead, and where we are upgrading our technology on a daily basis for thousands of users, our customer can benefit from this and their IT becomes future proof.

So getting back to %’s.  As you know, Gartner predict 50% of desktops will be virtual.  I say the largest potential of desktops that could end up virtualised is 50%.  In the UK, 90% of businesses are made up of small companies, 1 – 10 users.  To many of these guys don’t care about getting a dodgy copy of Office, they’re used to paying nothing for support so VDI is too expensive for them.  Trust in the cloud is growing immensely, but there are still companies who won’t want their data stored somewhere else (even thought their emails have been being stored in the cloud for decades).  So if we say a maximum of 50-65% of businesses could move into the cloud, there is no doubt in my mind in the next 7 years that around 40% of businesses will run in the cloud predominantly, whether it’s their own version of the cloud or hosted with someone like us.

Virtual desktops will transform the way businesses operate, I would be far less efficient if I didn’t have mine, and it’s only going to get better.  Internet speeds are increasing, hardware costs are decreasing and virtualisation technology is improving at an amazingly fast rate.  People want to work from anywhere and at anytime, in my eyes virtual desktops are the solution for now and for the next 5 years.  Who knows what will come after that !  I have an idea but I won’t post it on here just yet.

The purpose of forums is to initiate intellectual, thought provoking, mindful and collaborative conversations which this has done.

Chetan Venkatesh wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 8 2011 1:03 PM Link To This Comment

Brian,  thanks for the thought provoking piece.  I was reminded of Geoffrey Moore's thesis on market adoption of new technologies which he likened to crossing the chasm. The jist of his well proven theory is that  Innovations go mainstream when they cross the chasm of early adoption  when the innovation   addresses a large enough problem felt by the majority waiting to adopt.  There are numerous examples of the theory at work. But with VDI there is one key difference.

We are not talking of a single innovation or company when we talk of VDI but of an entire eco-system that is trying to cross the chasm together.  This by itself is a marvelous thing to watch as numerous companies of all sizes with differing agendas compete and co-operate and yet without any central co-ordination work together as an eco-system to overcome numerous adoption challenges.   We are past the era when a single killer application propelled a company to market dominance and allowed it to become a gorilla in its market.  Today's Gorilla's are coalition eco-systems built around vertical stacks and these take a long time to come together, mature and get adoption.    

The rewards of winning the Gorilla game for an eco-system are enormous and will result in many of the companies/products in that stack getting acquired integrated by the larget players as they try to exert more influence within the stack.   This is where many of the smaller companies are waiting to be acquired by trying to pick the right eco-system to play in and hope that it works out in the end.  

Chetan Venkatesh


atlantis computing

vesk wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 8 2011 1:17 PM Link To This Comment

Chetan very well said.

Claudio, I agree ONLY when you are talking about non-expert companies building their own cloud.  When we built our first infrastructure we had all sorts of problems for the first 18 months.  Of course dealing, with different virtualisation technologies, different hardware from SAN’s, servers/blades/rack servers, software vendors, applications etc etc it becomes too much.

But we offer hosted desktops as do many other providers that we term TOTAL cloud.  We have pretty much become a migration house and specialise by building one huge infrastructure that all our users can leverage, so we have a dedicated team who manage storage, a team for Citrix and so on.  The platform is stable and fast, so I disagree if you are talking in regard to hosted VDI.  Of course, I know a number of VDI hosting providers who have had horrific downtime, these tend to be the large hosting providers (no names) who have just started offering VDI, which is different to our infrastructure; being built for one purpose and one purpose only, high IOP intense environments for VDI and the adjacent heavy load SQL (and other) applications that businesses run.

Like you correctly said, there are hurdles.  But these hurdles are becoming easier and easier to overcome.

Issy Ben-Shaul wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 8 2011 2:02 PM Link To This Comment

Brian, I agree with the assessment  that the vast majority of PCs execute locally today and will continue to execute locally in the future.

The examples given by Vesk are for "tethered" users working on fixed desktops, typically from the banking industry.  

But what about laptops (the majority of PC users) run by knowledge workers, as well as desktops used by power users ?? People just don't want to compromise on their rich user-experience and give up the enhancements that continue to be offered on new endpoints. Furthermore, mobile users connected from various networks, often outside the corporate WAN, don't want to depend on unpredictable network latency for every keyboard strike or mouse movement, let alone not being able to work when not connected to corporate network.

That said, there is clearly high value for IT to centralize images and their management in the data-center, and occasionally even execute them centrally (e.g., in case of DR or when your local device is not with you). Our vision at Wanova is a hybrid approach: Centralize the images for manageability, DR, and universal access purposes, yet keep two-way cached copies on the endpoint for local execution and native user-experience. And yes, you can drop the centralized image onto a central VM quickly if you need to, but when you have your local device with you, enjoy your device, run locally...


Chetan Venkatesh wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 8 2011 2:13 PM Link To This Comment


"Furthermore, mobile users connected from various networks, often outside the corporate WAN, don't want to depend on unpredictable network latency for every keyboard strike or mouse movement, let alone not being able to work when not connected to corporate network."

<-- Yes VNC can do that.  

Harry Labana wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 8 2011 5:23 PM Link To This Comment

You can spend a lot of money on a Windows 7 migration and have exactly the same set of capabilities. That's the key question to ask when determining the amount of client architecture diversity that you require.

Client architecture diversity is already happening and will continue to grow increasing complexity. This will require a rethink of the management stack.

I'll also point out that Microsoft does state time and time again that a better managed desktop is a cheaper desktop. So I'll disagree with the assertion that MS is not stating their opinion. They actually want their customers to have a better managed Windows 7 desktop.

Staying as you are is not free.... it's a choice that needs to be made in the context of time pressure, current and future business needs. For that I am willing to bet client architecture diversity will continue to grow that will drive a management stack rethink.

Clayton Price wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 8 2011 9:24 PM Link To This Comment

I would have thought it just comes down to a few things:

1. What problem are you trying to solve?

2. What capabilities would you like now and in the near future?

The second is a little bit of a gamble but the first question should be answerable with quantitative analysis of the environment and user population.

Tim Mangan wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 8 2011 11:45 PM Link To This Comment

This is also the Brian that called Windows "legacy" earlier this summer?  Oh well!  It's always good for a conversation. So here are some of my thoughts in this space.

VDI in the data center right now is too hard to pull off for most of us.  The technology and tools are simply too Immature.

Pulling of a migration from XP to Win7 VDI in the data center requires coordinated expertise in the apps, windows, VDI, and storage.  Oh yeah, and that layering stuff.  Few are able to pull that off right now.

Over time, it will get easier.  Storage will get simpler.  The VDI tools will improve.  We'll get the apps figured out too.

For a while, VDI in the data center will have pockets of wins, implemented by committed enterprises and using external help from people likewise committed.

On the other hand, I have been deeply disappointed with the current batch of client hypervisors from the perspective of the local capability.  Given how well Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V runs on a laptop today, Microsoft's moves to add it to Windows 8 probably is a death blow to the alternate client hypervisors.  Microsoft will win there (ensuring at least one copy of windows locally).  Fortunately for the Virtual Computers and MokaFives of the world they continue to have an excellent management play that will be needed.

But the client hypervisor isn't going to be the BYOPC idea.  The initial use will be by IT people and developers.  Over time it may spill out, as additional cool use cases appear.

So I'm looking five years out.  Tools improve.  We figure out layering.  Users get adjusted to the idea of having multiple operating systems.  The remoting stuff continues to improve and seamless access to apps from the thing directly in front of the user (I'm going to call it the "dashboard" rather than the "desktop").   Vmotion capabilities will make it to the home, where multiple physical devices are shared.

Then, and only then, will we be ready for mass migrations, potentially to the data center.

But I will agree that where possible, the enterprise needs to work on the underlying technologies to gain the experience internally.  Especially important is working the apps and layering part of this.  Get those pieces under control, which enables whatever direction you take in the future, but don't ignore the rest of this stuff.  Remember, the app mess you are in today exists in part because you ignored them when you skipped Vista.  Find small use cases to keep the momentum internally.

Paul Burke wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Fri, Sep 9 2011 12:29 PM Link To This Comment

To Harry's ponit about migration, organizations HAVE to spend a lot on Windows 7 migration as most are on XP and the clock is ticking.  This is a pre-req in many respects to any further steps to desktop transformation.  However, they simply lift and shift everything from their current inventory.  Getting rid of waht they don't use can signficantly reduce this effort and cost and give them the means and opportunity to experiement with VDI and other client architectures much sooner.

The intersting dynamic is Microsoft wants the Win7 migration but not the VDI adoption that might occur after whilst the virtualization vendors (Citrix, VMware) are waiting for the  Win7 migration.  Stagnation of industry drive ???

Meanwhile if you talk to users of VDI they have mixed feelings about its benefits.  This is at the very least slowing adoption further.  Tim is right I think when he says this is still a maturity issue.

Looking at overall spending predictions from the IT analysts you see trillions currently being spend on traditional desktop management, billions about to be spent on virtualization and trillions to be spent on cloud infrastructure.  Does this suggest that VDI and other virtualization technologies will remain niche ?

Inevitably this will introduce more layers to the end-user computing stack (Physical device/desktop, virtual desktop, virtual apps, cloud apps)  as the existing technologies in broad use will continue to exist for years to come.  It will mean  more challenges for the enterprise to understand what they have, what they use and what they need to transition to which technology.  

Travonius wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Fri, Sep 9 2011 2:45 PM Link To This Comment

I think one aspect of all this that is missing is that you can offer more functionality by virtualizing desktops AND save a company money.  I think this approach will be what larger companies begin to do in 2012 if they haven't already started, and they'll be done by 2014.  

By taking their desktop refresh money and turning extending existing PCs by converting to thin clients it will allow a company to provide greater functionality (access desktop from home/tablets/mobile devices) and reduce costs because the cost of implementing the virtual desktop infrastructure will be paid for by the savings on PC refresh.

Steve Greenberg wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Fri, Sep 9 2011 3:52 PM Link To This Comment

The issue and the answer here is actually very simple.

The key vendors in this space are vying for mindshare and position. Large interests see some vague service model called "Cloud" as the future. As a result, the vendors are running around trying to position themselves with a competitive advantage.

In reality is VDI is a relatively immature technology that applies to a failry small number of use cases. It is a highly specialized technology that requires significant skills to execute properly. It is a valuable tool in the tooklit for about 10% of general customer use cases in our consulting practise, which has quite a track record of successful implementations.

In the panic to stake out Mind Share in the industry vendors are simply over selling it. That's all, it's really very simple. Great stuff, but only for the right use cases where there is a sufficient commitment to the complexities involved.

@JoeShonk and I outlined the specifics of this back in our2008 Briforum session about 10 Best Practises for VDI in which the #1 best practise was "Dont use VDI"  :)

check the video :)

The idea is simply this- VDI is being improperly frame and sold to the public. When you get passed the fantasies and see that the Emperor has no new clothes you can see VDI for what it really is. Then you can move forward and leverage it for the true benefits it can bring

vesk wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Mon, Sep 12 2011 5:34 PM Link To This Comment

Agreed.  The web URL shows up

Zojo wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Fri, Sep 16 2011 11:30 AM Link To This Comment


The problem is this.  You are a VDI supplier, so anything you say has to be taken with a pinch of marketing salt.  There are a couple of other issues I have with your comments.

1.  London is not typical of the world - it's not even typical of the UK.  There are thousands of businesses not to mention councils, hospitals, etc.  outside London.

2.  Banks and other financial institutions are not typical businesses.  They absolutely are not.  They have the funds to make big capital up front investments.  Most small businesses (as the banks won't lend to them, but hey, that's another story) and public sector bodies do not.

Brian may be wrong about the actual %age, but essentially I would agree with his main point.  Most people in most places are not using VDI.  In the sector I work in, Health, I know of no extensive use of VDI.  One or two "flagship" places like UCL may be using it, but the vast majority of local hospitals (and this is the vast majority of health workers) are not.  Why?  Firstly because of the front loaded nature of the change.  Our budgets don't work like that. Secondly beciase of the wide range of use types, many of which don't fit well with centralised VDI setups.

It rannoys me when people extrapolate from a very untypical situation (e.g. central London and the City) across the rest of the country.  You could say I am doing the same.  But I know my sector and I can say it is nothing like the picture you that makes me wonder whether you are just seeing what you want to see and avoiding the ugly truth.   I am delighted that your business is so successful, but you only deal with people who want to do this and have the funds.  You only see the few hundred people who support your argument, not the millions who don't.

VDI is expensive and complex, and does not meet the needs of a lot of users.  I wish it were not so, but ...

mrcoollion wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Wed, Sep 21 2011 7:56 AM Link To This Comment

I think Brian is right in the assumption that VDI will not be mainstream fast. Even though I personally think VDI in combination with application virtualization (and some additional tooling) is at this time the best solution for a managed corporate desktop, in practice I encounter lots of reasons why VDI is not easily accepted. Those reasons being (amongst others):

- Initial investment costs, your talking about a complete new server side infrastructure and   especially the storage part and the fact that usable thin clients are still a mayor cost factor, is debit to his.

- Cloud computing is such a hype now that the deciders within the company are 100% focused on it. This makes it hard for IT to sell an internal based infrastructure.

- What the deciders do not seem to understand is that desktop from the cloud is based upon exact the same techniques and therefore has the same restrictions (especially WAN related restrictions, not a good thing for a cloud based service). So they think that services from the cloud is at the same or even better level than an internal based services. Major contributor to this is the fact that many or most CIO’s within a company do not understand the technology and possibilities and restrictions that go with it. (still find it strange that a CFO needs to know everything about finances and a CIO only needs to be a good manager?)

- Many companies who at this time have experience with terminal server based desktops find the service to the users to be low grade and are therefore hesitant to go to a new similar (sounding) infrastructure. The cause of this is mostly a poorly setup and managed TS-infrastructure due to lack of funds, knowledge and commitment from the whole company. I do agree that a TS infrastructure is complex to manage and you do need a high expertise level and commitment within the company. VDI is less of a problem due to the nature of the solution.

- Te fact that VDI is going to cut drastically in IT staff that manage desktops and application deployment has also been a big obstacle for acceptance within IT.

It is a shame that decision makers of the medium and larger sized companies do not take their heads out of the sand and invest in one of the most important parts of their IT which is the environment their users work with. Especially while going over to a new Windows 7 platform such an investment is an opportunity they should seriously consider.

vesk wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 22 2011 6:09 PM Link To This Comment

@zojo let me explain why you are wrong.

If you read my post, you will have noticed that I said I was not mentioning my name, or my companies name.  When I submitted the post it asked me if I wanted to change the poster's name, and I changed it to anonymous, but for some reason this didn't change, this must be a fault in the coding of the blog.  So, my words should not be taken with a pinch of salt.

I know there are lots of businesses outside London.  We have many clients outside of London, in fact our second largest customers is based in the very North of England !  You must think I am niave to mention this.

I know that banks are not typical examples.  I was purely giving examples based on LARGE deployments that I know about.

Zojo, most of our clients are SME's.  We charge literally no setup fee apart from the migration of data, which is a very small fee, normally about 1 month of the standard monthly fee.

You are talking about organisations not being able to make upfront investments, well, we don't require that.  I think you are referring to organisations building their own VDI deployment, again, we don't require that as everything we host ourselves.

Non of what you have said detracts in any way, away from the points that I have made.

You say it really annoys you, well it really annoys me too because as you said, you are doing the same.  You are in health care, I heard today the NHS pulled the plug on the new NHS Healthcare ICT programme.  They lost £6.4bn, not million, billion !  No wonder the health service aren't using VDI, it will take them another 5 years of consultancy until they eventually get there, and they will get there.  Just like G-Cloud, the Government cloud, any idea how much they have lost ?  G-Cloud was supposed to save the public sector £3.2billion by consolodating around 100 datacentre's into a dozen or so super datacentre's !  Unbelievable this money is being wasted.  Why didn't they ask me, or Brian, or other leading hosting companies for our help...  Anyway back to health, hopefully I've answered your questions as to why I think the health service aren't using VDI, yet.

So, I'm avoiding the ugly truth ?  I'm avoiding what's right in front of me.  Of course, everyone I meet is pro-VDI so it's easy to get sucked in.  Everyone knows people who run businesses hear what they want to hear.  But zojo, I'm older, uglier and wiser to be so crude in my judgement as I've made all those mistakes before.  I'm not saying this to benefit the area I work in, I'm saying it because it makes logical sense.  VDI implementations will get easier, costs will come down, Microsoft will make things easier (that's if we're not all OS open source in the near future), Internet speeds will increase in places you are talking about (outside of London !).

vesk wrote re: The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?
on Thu, Sep 29 2011 11:53 AM Link To This Comment

Healthcare Industry Emerges as Technology Leader in Cross-Industry Desktop Virtualization Adoption Study

LEXINGTON, Mass., Sep 28, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Imprivata(R) the #1 independent single sign-on (SSO) and access management provider for healthcare and other regulated industries, today announced that in a recent cross-industry survey conducted among 477 IT decision makers, the healthcare sector, often regarded as a technology laggard, emerged as the leading adopter of desktop virtualization technology. Survey results revealed that remote access (39 percent), desktop manageability (27 percent) and user desktop roaming (14 percent) are the leading drivers for adoption of desktop virtualization within healthcare, and the primary benefits being realized are desktop availability (34 percent), improved user satisfaction (24 percent) and simplified workflow (19 percent).


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