Desktop Transformation is Not VDI

By Ken Phelan
Posted in Virtualization
On April 04, 2012

While many companies are experiencing success in their virtual desktop environments, a number of companies feel that virtual desktops haven't met their needs. Some of the details vary, but a general story outline often goes like this:

  • The company has a large and complex desktop offering. There are many applications.
  • The desktop offering is assembled by many parties, up to and including the users themselves, who can install applications as needed.
  • The user has a significant number of environmental settings and controls that they’ve set up on the machine to enhance their productivity.
  • Given all these complexities, they end up moving the physical desktop images to static images in the data center.
  • Now they’ve got a complex, difficult environment on upgraded (and much more expensive) equipment.

There are people who would argue that this is inevitable. There’s no way to remove the “P” in PC. The natural end of this philosophy is a one-man-one-computer paradigm where users require the PCs that they have configured and managed to operate effectively. Mobility and remote access endeavors become exercises in getting a user remote access into this singular device from wherever they may be.

In the end, whether this computer sits in the data center or a cubicle somewhere is irrelevant. It’s logically equivalent from a maintenance perspective.

The alternative, of course, is a provisioned desktop, and I believe that this is the essence of a desktop transformation initiative. A provisioned desktop can be instanced on demand with appropriate offerings and personalization. Desktop transformation isn’t about moving the one computer that makes me happy up into some private or public cloud. It’s about being able to walk into any cubicle at my company, or buy any new device at Best Buy, and have my desktop delivered to me as a service.

Creating the systems and processes that effectively provision desktops is no small undertaking, but I believe it’s a requirement for creating a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) offering that will serve your organization going forward. I believe that one-man-one-computer paradigm has run its course and will be unsustainable going forward. Here are some of my reasons:

  • There is no cubicle. There will be an increased need for mobility, work from home, and multiple devices. Access back to “my PC” will not hold up under this expanding diversity.
  • There is no standard application offering. There will be an increasing number of applications. People are going to want to try a number of things. If you want to let people put all these things on their own machines, be prepared to do a significant amount of endpoint maintenance.
  • There is no safe harbor. Endpoint security is going to explode in the next few years. If you think you have a lot of agents in your desktop standard now, just wait. Don’t believe me? Go ask your CISO or risk officer.
  • There is no last and best desktop. How many Windows upgrades do we need to live through before we realize that we need a system for DaaS that doesn’t need to start from scratch every two years?

Provisioning doesn’t mean that one size fits all. Many people will still be on traditional desktop computers. Some may use XenApp-type solutions primarily, others may use VDI. It’s the DaaS experience that’s critical to success going forward. We need to move toward a sustainable solution for providing a business computing experience.

Henry Ford once famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” We’ve ridden the personal computer horse about as far as we can. After the paradigm has shifted to DaaS, I think we’ll look back on the clutter of the one-man-one-computer model and wonder why we put up with it so long.

Ken Phelan

Ken Phelan

Ken is one of Gotham’s founders and its Chief Technology Officer, responsible for all internal and external technology and consulting operations for the firm. A recognized authority on technology and operations, Ken has been widely quoted in the technical press, and is a frequent presenter at various technology conferences. Ken is the Chairman of the Wall Street Thin Client Advisory Council.