Just wait, the mobile/cloud world is going to “rediscover” VDI and DaaS

We’ve always said that the long-term future of Windows desktop apps is in the data center. Mobile and cloud maturity could be the turning point that makes it happen.

For years, every few months we’ve learned about a new startup that’s pitching VDI or desktops as a service as if these technologies were either (A) just invented last week, or (B) the best thing since sliced bread. Mostly we roll our eyes because we’ve been in this space so long. However, I actually think that we’re going to get another wave of these pitches over the next several years.

In this case, it won’t be due to any particular DaaS or VDI breakthrough. Instead, it will be due to the maturity of mobility and cloud apps. The end result will be that instead of single-digit percentages of enterprise desktops being virtualized, we’ll finally get to the huge numbers that were predicted when VDI first came out—it’s just that those numbers will be a decade (or two) late.

Looking back

We know that about a decade ago, when VDI was new, it was hyped as a digital transformation-enabling revolution. But VDI was (and is) hard, and the when you virtualize a desktop, it’s still just a desktop. We aimed to cut down the hype in The VDI Delusion, and examined the challenges of DaaS a few years later. Later on, storage and GPU advancements solved some VDI challenges, as we acknowledged in The New VDI Reality, and some promising DaaS developments have occurred.

But while VDI was getting better, all this mobility and cloud stuff got real, too, and it looks much more like the place where “digital transformation” is actually happening.

What’s coming

As mobile and cloud mature and become the way of the world, then we’ll finally come full circle and get to the place where VDI and DaaS are the obvious choice for many, if not most, of our Windows desktop apps.

(Side note: By mobile and cloud, I just don’t mean iPhones and app stores. Really, it’s anything and everything beyond Windows desktops and applications. In addition to iOS and Android, mobile and cloud means Chromebooks and anything with a browser; it means modern web and SaaS apps; Windows S and UWP apps, and whatever else comes along.)

This idea that the long term home of Windows desktop applications is the data center isn’t new. But the thought that came to me recently is the timing and sequencing of when it will happen.

After mobile and cloud fully sweep through the IT world (or through various segments or organizations), DaaS and VDI are going to look especially attractive, because they take the benefits of mobile and cloud and apply them to old desktop apps. (We’ll be used to the challenges by then, too.) DaaS and VDI make your Windows applications more “cloud”-like, just like all your other modern applications. And they’re “mobile,” because you can access them from lots of different devices, not just a Windows desktop. (They could also have something like Powwow or Capriza built into the display protocol to help them adapt to touch and small screens, or to remix apps into new workflows.)

This is going to take a while, of course. Let’s say close to a decade... maybe 2025-ish. But as it happens, we’ll start getting a wave of enthusiastic new promoters of DaaS and VDI. (“You know how great the cloud is? What if your old Windows desktop apps were in the cloud, too!”) And then VDI (and DaaS) will finally achieve the numbers originally predicted—just a decade or two after some thought it would first happen.

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