Microsoft gets serious about virtualized desktops (in a Microsofty way)

We've spent the entire week looking at Microsoft's fairly large late-night Monday announcement that touched on several different virtualization areas.

It's Friday. We've spent the entire week looking at Microsoft's fairly large late-night Monday announcement that touched on several different virtualization areas, including:

A lot of people have been referring to this as Microsoft's big "virtualization" announcement, but I think we got that last year when Microsoft announced they were creating a standalone hypervisor to take on VMware. I think that Monday's announcement was really a big "desktop virtualization" announcement.

People have been wondering for the awhile whether Microsoft would ever enter the VDI space. I think this announcement shows that yes, Microsoft will enter the VDI space, albeit in their own unique way. Microsoft is not announcing a comprehensive VDI product that would compete with Citrix XenDesktop, VMware VDM2, or Quest / Provision's Virtual Access Suite. Instead, Microsoft is fine-tuning many of their products to ensure they work in virtualized environments, and they're making it easier for customers to use virtualization.

That's the core value of this announcement. In the past, Microsoft didn't take VDI seriously. It was easy for them to write it off as a "fad" that some of their crazy competitors were trying to push. But as momentum for VDI continued to swell, Microsoft realized they had to change their story if they wanted to stay in control of the Windows desktop market in the business world over the next few years.

The biggest part of the announcement was the recharacterization of what a "desktop" is. Microsoft is finally realizing that remotely-delivered Vista desktops will be just as feasible moving forward as locally-installed, locally-running desktops have been previously. Microsoft took a queue here from Citrix, Provision, and the other "old school" Terminal Server folks. These people have been pushing the "multi-modal" desktop concept for years. (The multi-modal concept is that a "desktop is a desktop," and that fundamentally there's no difference between delivering a full desktop running on a multi-user system such as terminal server versus delivering a full desktop running on a remote single-user system like Vista versus running a full desktop locally. After all, from the user's perspective, they just get "the desktop." Why should they care if the back-end technology is single user or multi-user, whether it's virtualized or native, or where it's running?)

As the virtualization community gained traction over the past few years and wanted to virtualize every piece of hardware they could get their hands on (including desktops), it was the Terminal Server community that was the first to call "foul" on this approach. The Terminal Server community led the charge in saying, "VDI is cool, but it's still server-based computing. It's really not that different than what we've been doing for 15 years." It was traditional Terminal Server companies, like Provision Networks and Citrix, that created VDI products with capabilities the matched the richness of user experience of their traditional TS products.

Over time, the industry at-large started to realize that the best desktop delivery solution would be a system that could incorporate both terminal server-based and desktop OS-based desktop delivery. People realized the best application delivery solution would allow for remote (SBC) and local (streaming) execution of apps. The best virtualization solution would virtualize the layers that had something to gain, but let other components run natively. Each of these technologies has its own advantages and disadvantages, but a system that could leverage a little bit of everything (as needed) would really shine.

The significance of Monday's announcement is that Microsoft now understands this. They understand that delivering Vista desktops remotely is a valid use case--cetainly as valid as terminal server. If you look at Microsoft's Virtualization Solutions page, you'll see that Microsoft is finally putting terminal server and desktop virtualization into the same thought. In fact, they're also taking this approach with their MVPs. A quick check of the MVP awardee directory reveals that Microsoft has created a new group called "Virtualization" for both Terminal Server and Virtual Machine MVPs.

So deliver that desktop locally, natively or in a VM. Deliver that desktop remotely, via a blade, VM, or terminal server. Deliver that application locally or remotely. Whatever you want to do, Microsoft will support it. They might not make all the tools you need to run with a 100% Microsoft solution in every scenario, but at least they won't look at you like you just grew a third arm when you tell them that you want to deploy Vista without any Vista code running on an end-user's device.

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...I agree wholeheartedly with your assesment. For once, it's not a "why VMware would do it better" post. I was beginning to think you were on the payroll (still not totally convinced otherwise)...

Maybe I'm quite biased as always beeing in the cosnulting business and never beeing an end-user.
However, a quick scan of the projects and companies I work with I just cannot imagine a VDI or like solution as a good fit. Yeah sure, the stationary people might have some use for it, but the bulk needs to have a stand-alone laptop with local applications to do their job. In addition there are 3G boards along with the ubiquitous WLAN needs to be handled. I don't know. Maybe my and my customers reality is not in the norm...

I have always concidered Citrix (core citrix PS) as a good way to provide access to applications on FULLY selfcontained systems. WI, via Secure Gateway and 2 factor auth is how me, my comapny and our clients are using...



I'm sorry, but I don't agree.  Looking at my customer base and some of the projects that we are working on I can see where a VDI solution makes sense.  Granted, VDI is the cure to all of IT woes but it does fill a gap that traditional PS/Terminal Servers cannot.  VDI is great for providing a consistent workflow for the end user as well as the backend support admins. Application and session security.  Application integration and compatibility (Some XP apps still DO NOT work on Windows 2003).  Power and system management.  Plus all the benefits you would expect from abstracting the OS from underlining Hardware.

As far as laptops go,  it has the same connectivity issues as a Presentation Server solution.  VDI (and PS) are not solutions for Road Warriors that have connectivity issues nor does it pretent to be.

Personally,  I would like to see VDI and SBC solutions merge where as both platforms can function as backend for publishing applications as well as both can be used to provide a desktop.  It would be cool if you could publish just 1 desktop and through a set of policies and filters determine what kind of desktop.  This is something that Citrix had the advantage with but decided to go in a different direction and different architecture.



Whoops.... I ment to say "Granted, VDI is NOT the cure to all of IT's woes..."


If you think of VDI the same as Citrix PS it's really the same thing right? The concept is you simply putting everything into the datacenter and accessing via some method be it WI/SG, SSL VPN portal, etc.. For all the obvious reasons (security, management, etc..) many large clients (I work for one) are starting to deploy thin-notebooks (Wyse in my environments case) where the thin-notebook has the 3G card so now they an always be connected and securely access all thier data. If the thin-notebook disappears, no biggie - it has not sensitive data which is the biggest reason we went this route. In the past we bought normal laptops but since all the apps are in Citrix, the laptop user has no need for local storage (nor do we want them to for security reasons - banking) so simply connect to WI/SG and away you go!
And what happens when you can't connect to ass and insert thumb?  I've got a 3G card and there's plenty of times I can't get connected.
If you cant connect 3G, then the strategy would be to walk 1 block in any direction and walk into a Starbucks, Panera or any other place that offers WIFI and get connected. :-)
Try living that strategy for a year and travel all over the world.  Then we'll look at your expense report to see how many 20 Euro internet access days you've paid for. ;)