How far along the hype cycle is VDI? My guess is Phase 3: “Trough of Disillusionment”

Have you heard of Gartner's "hype cycle?" (Wikipedia link) It's a five-phase graphical representation of the adoption of a business strategy or technology.

Have you heard of Gartner’s “hype cycle?” (Wikipedia link) It’s a five-phase graphical representation of the adoption of a business strategy or technology. The five phases are:

  1. Technology Trigger
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations
  3. Trough of Disillusionment
  4. Slope of Enlightenment
  5. Plateau of Productivity

It’s a pretty cool concept that accurately describes most technical trends. In laypersons terms, the cycle is (1) a new technology or concept is introduced, (2) everyone gets really excited and creates all these unrealistic expectations, (3) people realize the technology can’t do what they thought, so excitement takes a nose-dive and people become disillusioned, (4) people slowly start to figure out how to use the technology and learn what it can really do, and (5) we plateau at the final “proper” location.

Clients pay Gartner a lot of money to learn where different technologies are along this cycle. I think we as a community can figure this one out on our own.

Have we been to Phase 2? For sure! Are we still there? Unknown.

I’m sure everyone would agree that VDI has been to Phase 2: “Peak of Inflated Expectations.” The real question is “Are we still there, or have we moved on (down?) to Phase 3 (disillusionment)?”

I guess where you think it is today depends on your position in this industry and whether you’ve been burned from hype cycles in the past.

My own sense is that we’re squarely in Phase 3, the “Trough of Disillusionment” (which explains why some people have called me a “VDI hater.”—they’re stuck in Phase 2!) Personally I think I moved directly from Phase 1 to Phase 3. (At least for VDI. But for Desktop Virtualization in general, I think I’m still in Phase 2. At least for another 13 months.)

But more important than what I think is that this hype cycle concept is just that: a “hype” cycle. So it’s not about one person’s personal opinion or a specific use case that’s helping or hurting VDI’s cause. Instead it’s about the community-at-large. It’s about the users and the media and the analysts and the consultants and the vendors and all the talk and chatter and tweets.

What’s next, hype-wise?

I owe thanks and credit to Chetan Venkatesh, Atlantis Computing’s CEO for getting me thinking about VDI and the Gartner hyper cycle. He did so via twitter (of course) with his May 11 tweet, “Citrix's lack of any real news signals that VDI is still at the bottom of the hype cycle - Good News - only way forward is up.” Is that true? It seems to me like most of the industry is still stuck back in Phase 2, which is too bad, because this means we have to endure more of the "rah rah" BS before we can all sober up and move on.

But Chetan makes a good point about being in Phase 3, namely, that the only place to go from there is up. So maybe the best thing that any of us can do to support VDI is to help move the entire industry from Phase 2 to Phase 3. (Hmm.. so does that mean that I've just proved been doing the VDI industry a favor by being harsh on it? I've sure always thought so!)

So what do you think? Where's the industry now? How much more inflated expectations will we have to endure before the whole industry sobers up and moves to Phase 3? Or did that already happen and now we're building towards enlightenment?

Brian’s VDI Hype Cycle

By the way, here’s how I think the five phases of the VDI hype cycle align to real life:

  1. Technology Trigger (VMware experts start implementing hacked-together VDI-like solutions on ESX. 2004)
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations (When VMware released View and Citrix released XenDesktop. 2008/2009)
  3. Trough of Disillusionment (Happening now as people try to use View and XenDesktop. 2009)
  4. Slope of Enlightenment (Will start after June 2010, when these technologies are more ready)
  5. Plateau of Productivity (It will take awhile for people to understand how this will all work, but by 2012/2013 we should have it figured out.)



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