Companies take bold steps into desktop virtualization

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Mobility sparks a move toward desktop virtualization, as benefits begin to outweigh challenges and ROI battles.

At the new Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the maxim "do no harm" extends beyond caregivers to members of the technology team, especially when they undertake a sweeping desktop virtualization project that could impact the daily routine of up to 9,000 clinicians.

"If we're going to take on technology change inside a critical care setting, and with systems that serve our sickest patients, we've got to have a well-thought-out plan for making sure it works and that there's backup," says Stephen Sears, director of cloud and virtualization services at the 1.6 million-square-foot hospital.

The sheer physical size of the new hospital meant clinicians would need to be more mobile and rely more heavily on wireless computing. In addition, caregivers were adopting a new clinical documentation system, and Sears knew that they would be spending much more time on desktops and mobile devices.

At audio communications manufacturer Plantronics in Santa Cruz, Calif., about a quarter of the 1,700 knowledge workers connect iPads to a virtual desktop infrastructure.

"They want to be able to do their work whether on the road or here at headquarters, and [they want to] use apps that may not be supported on [mobile] platforms, such as an expense report or a time management tool," says CIO Tom Gill.

When the first iPads began trickling in, Gill's team created a virtual desktop platform that gave users access to applications that typically don't work well on the devices, such as Java. A second platform was also created to access a few business intelligence apps.

Looking ahead, Iowa faces a consolidation mandate, and the data of all agencies will be combined "into a couple of data centers," Bateman explains. "As we move all of our equipment into a common data center, we're looking into how to use that VDI for other agencies, as well."

Solving Storage and Speed Issues

Some early adopters found that virtual desktops required too much storage, especially when completely re-creating each desktop on the back end. Storage space quickly ran out, and systems slowed to a crawl when the desktops needed upgrades or virus patches. That problem has largely been solved with better time management and by replacing static desktops with floating virtual desktops.

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