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.)

Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

Very interesting post Brian; certainly a good trigger to thinking about reality Vs hype. In some cases, a small number, I do believe reality is ahead of the hype curve (in fact, we have over 800 users on VDI solution that they would say has reached a plateau of productivity for them) but, in terms of the overall market I see it very much locked in early stage 2 where everyone gets very excited and creates unrealistic expectations. I make this judgment based on the amount of IT media and marketing junk-mail that lands in my inbox on a daily basis compared with last year or the year before. In many ways, this contradicts my real-world experience of the technologies and their ability to deliver a usable service but remember, this is a 'hype curve', not necessarily related to reality. Someone whose name escapes me said that "technology becomes useful when it  ceases to be interesting" so, taking the long view, it will be some time before VDI ceases to be nteresting, which leads me to believe we're still firmly entrenched in the early stages of the curve.


I think to be effective at classifying VDI into one of these buckets, you need to separate the use cases for VDI.  I'll make two very general buckets.  One I call niche which refers to the offshore workers, etc.  This group of people have no expectations in terms of preexisting desktop performance, nor do they expect certain things like peripherals, etc. to work over thousands of miles of WAN.  This use case is fully in Plateau of Productivity because people HAVE implemented VDI solutions and have been very successful to date.  The reason for the success is due to lowered expectations.  Now, contrast that with a second group which I'll call wholesale VDI which is to say you're going to migrate every single user (barring unforeseen complications - which essentially means "You WILL have an exception process, and it WILL be larger than you expect").  This wholesale VDI insourcing group does not have lowered expectations and in many cases is more suspect of any changes to their environment and will likely highlight every single flaw of your new VDI strategy.  This group is unfortunately still in Phase 2 - Peak of Inflated Expectations"  Why do I say this?  Because despite all the advances in VDI technology there's still a substantial number of technologies that cause an exception process when trying to mass adopt VDI.  Until those items are addressed (assuming they can be considering bandwidth/latency restrictions), then we can begin to move on to the other phases.  Now, one could argue that I'm agreeing that we're in the Trough.  Yes and no, I think people tip toe between the trough and then ease back a bit only to find XYZ vendor announce new support for XYZ technology that slams us right back into Phase 3.  So until that flip flop ends, I think we're stuck between Phases 2 and 3.



@ Shawn,

I like the two bucket approach you took. My experience and thoughts align a lot with that. Where I currently work we have used VDI successfully for bucket one. Our global technical service provider would also like to use the same approach for bucket two. As the service manager, I cannot disagree more with this approach. I had never thought of how you described the “niche” worker as a “Group of people who have no expectation in terms of persisting desktop performance”, but looking at our implementation that is very true. These offshoring centers have no history of  LAN based PC computing (within our environment) therefore what they get is what they get. Bucket two however does and that is where VDI really needs to catch up. To quote my good friend Kingston “When staff receive Thin Clients (VDI) when they once had a full PC, even though the performance has improved, they feel like they have been demoted.  Perhaps it is the fact that they cannot replace the solid color background with a picture of their cat.” To really tackle bucket two VDI must be able to deliver the same personal experience as their existing environment. As IT we can no longer sit back and say, those are company assets so too bad.



I wish my problems with VDI were as simple to solve as letting someone change their desktop background.  If that was the only barrier, I'd be fully deployed on VDI. ;)



Shawn and Brian, both very well said. While reading the post I found myself  flipping between 2 and 3 and very troubled in trying to identify it.  Shawn you did a great job of laying out precisely where I was.

The challenge that I still can't overcome in my mind is, is VDI really a good substitute or replacement for hosted apps?  Until it resolves some of the peripherial challenges I still can't wrap my hands around the clear advantages of VDI over already Phase 5 technologies.....


I don't think there is a single answer to where we are on the Hype Cycle, rather it depends on whose viewpoint is being used.  It look like the various product managers are well aware of the technologies limitations, but the sales teams are (inevitably) still high on the Peak of Inflated Expectations".  From a customer perspective it looks like those who have implemented are well aware of the limitations, but those who have not yet done so have too many false expectations. Gartner themselves appear to be caught up in their own hype, forecasting massive revenue in what to me looks like unrealistic time-frames.

I posted some pervious thoughts on VDI and the Gartner Hype Cycle here -->  


I still go back to the dark ages of virtualization in general, say 2002-2003. Back then, before the first P2V, before the first Test/Dev>Production Migration, before DR, before even cap planner....we asked a very simple question: "What do you have, and what do you need to do?" We did the discovery manually, we spent many hours onsite, we built blueprints, we rolled out pilots.

I 1000% agree with the hype-circle, however, to the authors and commenters great credit, INTELLIGENCE & Assessment allows the user to include/exclude machines, users, and apps from the scope of any project considering these new technologies, be realistic of what the true end user experience will be, and DE-RISK the financial, and technical limits of where we are today [technical reality horizon]. "Deployment without Validation is the road of Delusion" - i just made that up, and while it may sound odd, maybe even harsh - our technologies and tools are only valuable if they solve a problem. 1. What problem am i solving?  2. Who needs it to be solved? 3. Can I solve it today?



I'd agree in general with the two buckets, but not in every case for the reasons stated of lower expectations. People use VDI also to gain session mobility, so when they go home tavel etc their state is preserved, which is a capability that is much nicer than RDP to your desktop over a WAN. That applies to many users in my case in both buckets and they are happy and have very high expectations. I find the limitatiosn for USB etc, the exception and those folks can still use regular PCs as well. I also find ensuring users understand the benefits and cons makes it much easier to migrate. Stupid support staff also need to be educated otherwise they just BS the users and they complain with understanding. There are also a number of other good reasons such as disaster recovery that make a lot of sense for the masses.

In general I'd agree with Shawn and say the industry is in a flip flop between 2 and 3, but I think a lot of that is caused by people not understanding what VDI can really do, if not implemented like the vendors tell you (shared storage etc)  no matter what Atlantis computing is trying to sell that is not proven, (Brian stop drinking the cool aide and test the damn thing and talk about facts) vs. doing much of this on classic TS with Citrx, etc.



I completely agree, but I will say that exception processes suck.  While *I* know it's a reality, many customers don't want to hear about exception processes because exception processes mean increased cost and complexity.  If you can't nail a solution at 100% adoption, it becomes a pain in the ass to have 85 different ways to accomplish it.  Customers want simplicity and this is why the hype-cycle for VDI is so particularly damaging to the VDI industry as a whole.  Too many people have sold it as a 100% solution and frankly, it isn't and probably never will be.



Two things..

1) glad to see that T-REX is bringing his wealth of knowledge in VDI to the madden "think tank" collective  ;-)

2) i always enjoy appdetecive's straight out tell it like it is approach..



By Gartner's definition, I'd say we are overall starting to enter phase 3.  There is definitely an increasing number of customers, analysts, and speakers questioning the validity or extent of claimed benefits.  

Shawn's comments are correct, but the classic one line graphical representation simplifies things so we can make general judgements and estimates.  I'd argue there are many more than 2 buckets or threads we could follow and perhaps it's up to us to watch the overall trend and then follow the few threads that are relevant to our are of interest.  

A question that comes to mind is:  Is Hype Bad?   I'd argue it's actually spurs innovation and opportunity although not without it's share of downside.    Thoughts?

A related thought to using VDI in scenarios it's not well suited for:  Although it can be painful, I love it when people / companies push a technology towards an unintended use.  That's often where the really cool stuff happens.  


I'm get out of Stage 2 do you need to have shelled out a few $$$ or does "paper" disillusionment count ??

VDI = Stage 3

Cloud = Stage 2

Where is SBC??


@clayton  To your point, which is short, but sharp(!), to get out of stage 2, you have to move past theory, rules of thumb, and guessing, and KNOW. Only in knowing can we begin to apply these technologies in meaningful and production appropriate ways. I believe SBC is and has to be a part of these solutions all the while. The best part of knowing is actually realizing that SBC may be THE solution for some use cases, PART of the solution for others, etc.  Not a lot of $$$$, just a lot of knowing.

-VDI/SBC/HVD etc will progress.

-HVD may be the desktop cloud, we shall see

-TrueCLOUD maybe is at stage one...

**I like to think about the CLOUD like Unicorns....I believe in them, but i have never seen one, so, i reserve the right to remain a teeny tiny bit sceptical :)