I've written quite a bit about client hypervisors over the past few years. But now that we're getting closer to Citrix's production release of XenClient, and now that VMware is backing away from the client hypervisor, I'll take this opportunity to again put my money where my mouth is with a prediction: I can't possibly see client hypervisors becoming popular and adopted en masse any time before 2013.
Why client hypervisors?
I guess that we should take a step back for a minute and a look at why anyone would use a client hypervisor considering that I've written a lot about why they're NOT needed (here and here). Client hypervisors can actually be useful in a few cases:
- Providing "offline VDI." Sure this is something we've been talking about for years, but the reality is that if you buy into the whole desktop virtualization thing, and if you spend a lot of time building images or whatever via a desktop virtualization environment like XenDesktop, View, or vWorkspace, it would be great if that same system could just be extended offline with a few clicks.
- Providing "local VDI." I know this is technically the same thing as "offline VDI," but I love that we could get the single image management of VDI without the hassle of Provisioning Server or SANs. And I love/hope that it could be integrated with XenDesktop or whatever so that we didn't have to go with a third party product like Wanova (which works great today but which is something else that has to be bought, learned, deployed, and managed).
- Security. Maybe it's my Bay Area affinity, but I really like what the whole TXT component of vPro can do in a client hypervisor environment. I love that a company could use TXT to ensure that a user's laptop only booted the proper hypervisor, and I love that that could be extended to ensure the user only runs approved VMs (or that different VMs could be certified to run with certain characteristics or privileges).
- And of course, I love that the laptop manufactures will start to offer checkbox-type purchase options to enable the inclusion or activation of client hypervisors on the laptops they sell.
The client hypervisor adoption curve, 2010-2013
Here's how this is going to go down:
Citrix will release XenClient as a production supported product. It will be fine. Not great, but fine. And even though companies like Virtual Computer and Virtual Bridges have been shipping stuff like this for awhile now, XenClient is the first thing that people will start to talk about. This is where the education will begin.
However, it will be very slight. Early results of our BrianMadden.com "State of the Desktop Virtualization Industry" customer survey show that only 17% of respondents even planned on using or evaluating client-based VMs by the end of 2011. And that's for all flavors of client VMs, not just client hypervisors. (If you haven't taken the survey yet, please do so now. It will take 8 minutes and help us learn more about the various industry trends.)
Will we see any success at all in 2010? I'm sure, but it will be very limited. Expect Citrix to tout the same few case studies again and again—case studies that are probably just really big pilots and proofs of concept with companies who traded marketing rights for license discounts.
The problems with the initial versions of XenClient will be (a) limited hardware compatibility, and (b) limited integration with the rest of the XenDesktop product. But those problems will get worked out in 2011. Adoption will still be low though... A lot of lab testing and people learning, "wow, this is different."
By this point we'll have a client hypervisor that's actually pretty usable and that will start to get some momentum of some big wins and huge deployments.
This is when enough people will start to deploy client hypervisors, based on all the good things they heard about them the previous year. Certainly we're not talking about anywhere near 100% of users, but by this point client hypervisors will certainly be common enough that there's no risk of getting fired for trying them.
What about the hardware compatibility problem?
Ironically the limited hardware compatibility list (HCL) problem will sort of take care of itself as time goes on. This will happen from two angles, as (1) more new laptops replace old ones, and (2) the client hypervisors mature and embrace more types of laptops.
The bottom line is that all is not lost when it comes to client hypervisors. They'll still play a big part of our industry. But they just might not come on as fast or strong as we initially thought.
What do you think? Faster? Slower? Or am I missing the point entirely?