I’ve been with TechTarget & BrianMadden.com for exactly one year now. In my initial interviews with Brian and Gabe, they asked whether I knew anything about virtual computing. I answered "yes," which wasn’t a lie, but now I realize it wasn’t exactly true either.
Up until that point, my experience with virtualization was limited to using the Windows RDC client on my Macbook so I wouldn’t have to get up to add torrents to my desktop computer’s download queue. (Yes, I’m that lazy.) I had also dabbled with an, umm.... “evaluation” copy of Parallels Desktop for Mac thanks to the aforementioned torrents. (Although it never worked right for me and I gave up on it pretty fast.)
But what a difference a year makes! In the past twelve months I’ve attended two VMworlds, Citrix Synergy, two BriForums, read countless Brian and Gabe articles, and shot videos with knowledgeable people such as Atlantis Computing’s Jim Moyle. I now know that desktop virtualization isn’t just a single protocol or product, and may be comprised of RDP, PCoIP, SPICE, RemoteFX, EOP, HDX... the list goes on and on, seemingly growing with every vendor show we hit.
And this all got me thinking: How does anyone jump into this and expect to understand it? I mean there are dozens, if not hundreds of vendors with multiple solutions--some proprietary, some not. Some vendors like Ncomputing sell an end-to-end solution controlling the hardware, software, and everything in-between while others try to slip into your existing setup on nothing more than a flash drive and a prayer.
And of course there's the fact that the majority of the discussions on this website center around whether or not VDI is even for you and your business. And I'll tell you what: I’ve read every article published in over the past year and I still don’t have a clue. As an industry, VDI can’t even seem to be defined with precision.
As Brian has written before, we don’t use VDI at TechTarget. It doesn’t suit our use cases at all. Especially mine... You ever try video editing a high definition video file over a WAN? Me neither, and it likely isn’t happening anytime soon even with all the fancy HDX3DRDPCoIP (George Lucas, this is not the droid you’re looking for) blah-bity-blah coming out this year. Earlier this year, Brian tried setting up VDI for just himself, running a server out of his closet at home. It had a dedicated cable line out and he tried to access it from work on our DSL. Success was non-existent. And he KNOWS what he’s doing! What the hell am I expected to do?
We’re not the typical use case, though. Then again, is there a typical VDI use case? I guess one could say businesses with sensitive material and a penchant for letting their employees work remotely is the ideal case. Beyond a few government agencies, I honestly couldn’t think of too many examples that fit this paradigm. Price-points are dropping for virtualizing desktops in the office, I guess, but it still has a lot of the old gremlins. Janice over in Accounting still tends to lose her LOLcat wallpaper every time she ‘reboots’ her VM. My takeaway from all this is that, no matter how seemingly mainstream this all is, it’s really still niche. Your IT guy might get all giddy but it's unlikely The Situation will be all over a bare-metal hypervisor anytime soon unless MokaFive starts handing out spray tans.
A friend of mine recently asked about my work and I threw out a few examples of companies we work with. She had actually heard of Citrix, and we talked a little about possibilities. In the end, we decided we still couldn’t stand trying to use Windows 7 on an iPad. It felt like trying to drive a remote control car with my hands tied behind my back in a snowstorm.
So, what’s my point to all this hating?
Put away the pitchfork, it’s actually the opposite. This stuff is really exciting. Think about it: you have your computer, that thing that was either tethered to your desk like a boat anchor or you carried around in a giant padded bag, for the past 20+ years all of a sudden accessible from ANYWHERE. If I drop my Chromebook down one of San Francisco’s gorgeous sewer drains or my iPad gets run over by a bus, it’s a bad day but I’m not left sobbing because my drunken college photos are gone forever. I just need a new endpoint.
What we’re seeing now is the tip of the iceberg, the Wright Brothers flyer of methodology. Steve Jobs likes to say we’re in a post-PC world, but I disagree. I think we’re entering a post-physical PC world. Your PC experience will be alive and well, just not strapped down like the old ball and chain. The public is all “cloud-happy” now with the consumerization of IT, but I think what you’re really seeing is two technologies destined to get together and birth the next iteration of our computing experience. Your apps, your data, your stupid cat wallpaper, your everything, accessible anywhere, on any device, delivered remotely over blazing 4G networks and deliciously fast FIOS. And not just companies, but everyone.
Imagine instead of needing a new computer, you just pop on to your Wyse thin client, log on and “upgrade” your $10/month subscription from the 2 GHz PC experience to the $20/month 4 GHz with GPU acceleration version. You’d never buy another computer again…even upgrading a Mac isn't that easy. No longer does VDI seem scary but even less scary than the current purchasing cycle, and way easier for the consumer.
Will all this come to pass? I don’t know. I’m dreaming pretty big here, but it’s not like companies aren’t toying with it. This is all coming from someone who gains all his knowledge from trade show demos whichdon’t even always work right when being hosted on a carefully manicured local server. But even a noob like me can see the value and the future in it. I guess I've learned something after all.
Subnote: If anything here is wrong, remember, I’m your typical consumer. We don’t always get Ghz vs. Megabytes or GPUs vs CPUs. We definitely don’t understand what a thin client vs. a zero client is. And there are literally billions of me who haven’t discovered any of this yet..but they will.