I've made a lot of predictions in the past that have been wrong, most notably that by 2010 all the technical components would be in place for wholesale VDI adoption. (Though in my defense in those days we used the term "VDI" to describe all types of desktop virtualization, including client-based VMs.)
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2010 came and went, and VDI isn't the runaway success everyone thought it would be. After all, back in 2009, Gartner predicted that by 2013, VDI would be a $65 billion industry with 49 million users. We spent a lot of time in our book "The VDI Delusion" digging into the reasons why VDI hasn't taken the world by storm, so I won't rehash everything here.
Instead I want to point out that it looks like we now have the technology to address two of the major showstopper issues for VDI. Does that mean that 2013 is the "Year of VDI?" Hardly! But it does mean that two more of the barriers that previously prevented people from going to VDI are being addressed, so the total VDI addressable market is bigger now than it was six months ago.
So what are these two technological advancements?
1. We now have the storage technology to support persistent (1-to-1) disk images
I've written again and again that for VDI to really succeed, we have to be able to deliver persistent desktops. While that's been theoretically possible since 2006, it's always be very expensive. Just about all VDI marketing over the past seven years has been about "image sharing" or "non persistent" images. (And most of that is the tail wagging the dog. Vendors push image sharing not because it's better but because it's cheaper. And while that's true, it's not easy to implement and one of the core reasons that VDI didn't take off.
But fortunately all that is changing! We're seeing tons of new storage vendors enter the space who can fully support persistent disk images. (I liked Tegile and Datacore early on for this. My current favorite is Atlantis Computing who can do it in all software. But really there are probably 20 companies who can do this now. Greenbytes, Virsto (recently bought by VMware), Nexenta, and a bunch more I'm forgetting.
Long story short: In 2013, if you want to do VDI with persistent desktops, you can. (And for a price that's not too crazy.)
2. GPU-based graphics improvements mean we can now support most apps
The other big change to VDI now is that we have support for GPUs in our VDI host server. This works in two ways:
First, our individual desktop VMs can now access shared physical GPUs in the VDI servers, finally allowing users to run applications that require GPUs. That's a huge win.
Second, and potentially more important, we now have hypervisors and remoting protocols that leverage the GPUs in VDI servers to do hardware-based encoding of the graphics streams for the remoting protocols. This means that we can have higher quality graphics over lower bandwidth connections, and that doing so doesn't put a huge load on the server since it's handled by the GPUs and not the CPUs. (This is all based on NVIDIA's "VGX" technology which was announced last year and is just now making into the VDI products like XenDesktop and Horizon View.)
2013: The year of !
In 2013, VDI solutions will continue to fall in price in terms of dollars per user. I still don't believe that VDI is cheaper than traditional desktops and laptops or that it's easy to manage when you compare apples-to-apples, but regardless of that the price is coming down.
To be clear, I also still don't believe that we should replace all the corporate desktops and laptops with VDI. VDI makes sense in some cases, but so does RDSH, client VMs, and well-managed traditional clients.
So like I said I'm not going to actually call this the year of VDI. There are still a lot of scenarios where VDI doesn't make sense. But it's definitely true that in 2013, more people have the option of VDI than ever before. And that's not a bad thing.