Desktop virtualization is not a "free pass" for lack of desktop management

Some people suggest that I don't like desktop virtualization because of some recent articles I've written.

Some people suggest that I don't like desktop virtualization because of some recent articles I've written like Desktop Virtualization is NOT about saving moneyWhy Microsoft is not getting serious with desktop virtualization in Windows 8, and The myth of the desktop transformation. (You should also check out Simon Crosby's amazing post, VDwhy?)

From my perspective, I don't feel that I'm down on desktop virt, rather, I feel like there are still a lot of people who go down the path of desktop virtualization where it doesn't make sense or with the wrong ideas about what it can do, and they end up getting in trouble. And fundamentally, I want to avoid that so that everyone's desktop virtualization initiatives can be successful.

That said, I'd like to address another disturbing misconception that I'm starting to see with desktop virtualization, namely, that people think that desktop virtualization itself somehow means you can avoid actually managing Windows desktops.

Desktop virtualization doesn't "automatically" give you easy desktop management

This misconception is tightly tied to the "desktop virtualization saves you money" myth. People say things like "if you use desktop virtualization, you don't have to manage Windows desktops because all users can share the same desktop image." Or they'll say "With desktop virtualization, you virtualize the apps and virtualize the user environment, and then there's nothing left to manage!"

Both of these are false.

The reality is that desktop virtualization is a tool that changes the way desktops are delivered and managed. Sure, certain types of desktop virtualization might ease certain aspects of desktop management, but no type of desktop virtualization will remove 100% of your Windows management issues.

For example, as soon as you talk about sharing one Windows image across different devices or different hypervisors, now you're dealing with driver management and Windows hardware profiles. This doesn't mean that these image sharing schemes are bad, but it does mean that you still need to understand how Windows works.

As soon as you start talking about app virtualization, you're looking at how applications are packaged, installed, and executed. You have to become familiar with how they touch the registry, which files they put where, and how they link to and interact with other applications (both virtual and locally-installed). This is classic Windows stuff.

If you're thinking about user environment virtualization, you have to think about filesystem drivers and kernel mode versus user mode changes and folder redirection and virtual file systems. You have to understand how and where users save their data and where applications write their settings. You have to know how to scan the registry for old settings and how side-by-side DLLs work. User environment virtualization can make your life easier, but only if you have a solid understanding of Windows.

Then when you put all these pieces together, you'll be dealing with different technologies and different delivery methodologies for different groups of users. You'll end up combining VDI, Remote Desktop, client VMs, and traditional desktops with streamed apps, web apps, and virtual profiles. And after you combine all of this, what's the one thing in common? The Microsoft Windows 7 operating system.

How to become an expert in desktop virtualization

The only way to have a comprehensive desktop virtualization strategy is to have a comprehensive desktop strategy. And today that's going to be around Windows 7. Windows 7 is that one commonality across the entire rainbow. If you want to become an expert in desktop virtualization, become an expert in Windows 7. In fact if you want to become a desktop virtualization effort, you only have to read one book:

Win7reskit

The Windows 7 Resource Kit is published by Microsoft. It's about 1700 pages, but if you read this cover-to-cover I guarantee you'll be a better desktop virtualization expert than 99% of IT Pros who attempt to understand desktop virtualization! (Heck, just knowing that desktop virtualization is more about Windows 7 desktops and less about virtualization will put you ahead of about 80% of the pack.)

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