Myths That IT Believes About Client Virtualization

Despite client virtualization becoming increasingly popular, there is still much confusion about the different technologies and how they will play out in the enterprise. Many firms still believe that client virtualization is a security risk or that a single technology will help them improve manageability, empower remote workers, and virtualize all their applications.

Client virtualization includes four technologies: local desktop virtualization; hosted desktop virtualization; local application virtualization; and hosted application virtualization. Together these technologies provide IT ops professionals better manageability; data and device security; more tools to comply with regulations; and business continuity in the event of disaster, loss, or workforce interruption.

[ For timely virtualization news and expert advice on strategy, see CIO.com's Virtualization Drilldown section. ]

However, in their quest for a shorter sales cycle, vendors often ignore these benefits and make false claims about potential cost savings. As a result, some users fear that client virtualization isn't all it was cracked up to be.

Based on our conversations with IT ops professionals, there are five common misunderstandings about client virtualization:

Myth No. 1: A single technology will meet all of my needs. Users still expect that a single client virtualization technology will solve all of their problems, from lowering the cost of managing the desktop environment, to providing better remote access, to insuring business continuity. The reality? To meet these objectives, a variety of client virtualization technologies is needed. At a high level, local application virtualization lowers the cost of supporting traditionally installed applications. Hosted application virtualization enables problematic legacy applications to be separated from other applications. Local desktop virtualization allows IT to run a managed desktop environment on an unmanaged machine. Hosted desktop virtualization enables anyone with network connectivity to access a corporate desktop. However, these technologies become much more interesting when you combine them. For example, combining hosted desktop and application virtualization provides the benefits listed above at a lower cost than implementing only one of the technologies.

Myth No. 2: Desktop virtualization is a security risk. Perhaps you've been told that desktop virtualization is less secure than a physical desktop-in reality, it actually enables a more secure client environment. Most importantly, hosted desktop virtualization removes all of the applications and data from the endpoint device. This means that your data security is immediately improved because you no longer need to worry about devices with sensitive data being lost or stolen. Furthermore, local desktop virtualization allows your IT staffers extensive control of the desktop environment by locking it down more than was possible before. This is made possible by giving the worker access to the host OS, where he or she can install software that is not allowed in the virtualized corporate environment. However, what's most interesting is how desktop virtualization is bringing consumerization to life by making employee-owned devices a secure option in the enterprise. More on this with executives from Google and Citrix at Forrester's Security Forum next month.

Myth No. 3: Virtualizing applications is just another way to package applications. Many companies think that application virtualization is just another format to package your applications in. Think again. Local application virtualization isolates applications so that, generally speaking, they can't natively interact with other applications. This is a great feature because it prevents application conflicts. On the other hand, it also means that your IT staff responsible for application packaging must understand application interdependencies to get them functional in this format. Because applications run in isolated bubbles, you must explicitly define when applications are permitted to communicate across these boundaries. Most organizations will see hundreds of dependencies that must be defined to assure applications will work in this environment.

Myth No. 4: The business case for desktop virtualization has to be around cost. Be warned: The nine-month ROI that vendors might advertise for their latest and greatest technologies can actually average three or four years, according to our clients that have crunched the numbers for their hosted desktop virtualization deployments. Why? Because the upfront infrastructure and licensing costs far outweigh the upfront benefits. So, although your CIO will ask for an ROI model when budgeting for a new technology, it shouldn't be the focal point of the proposal. Make sure to present the other more significant benefits, such as reduced support costs or improved data security, to make your case. We have found that companies that take into account all of the long-term benefits from desktop virtualization succeed, while those that stick to the numbers are stuck with management responding, "Try again next year."

Myth No. 5: All of the ideal user scenarios can be legally implemented. It would be wonderful if your existing operating system and business application licenses allowed you to take advantage of the world of virtualization-for example, workers taking their OS or applications on the road to use on whichever computing device was most convenient at the time.(see endnote 3) Alas, you cannot-OS and application licensing haven't caught up to the technologies available today. For example, local application virtualization makes it possible for IT staffers to put applications on a removable media device for users to carry around with them to any device. Virtualization also makes it possible to timeshare applications, giving morning shift workers access to applications when they are in the office and evening workers access to these same applications. However, these scenarios are generally not permitted by your software license-which is often bound to a specific user or computing device. Make sure to read your licensing agreements carefully so you don't become the next victim of noncompliance.

Natalie Lambert is a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, where she serves Infrastructure & Operations professionals. She will be presenting at Forrester's Security Forum, Sept. 9-10, in San Diego, Calif. Do you Tweet? Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.

This story, "Myths That IT Believes About Client Virtualization" was originally published by CIO.

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