No Rush to Virtual Desktops

Windows 7 may prompt some CIOs to try desktop virtualization, but widespread adoption is still years away.

Microsoft Corp. is pushing desktop virtualization as a way of making Windows 7 play nicely with old applications, especially those written for Windows XP. So now that the technology has been "blessed" by Microsoft, should we expect a desktop virtualization boom?

Probably not, most experts agree. "Adoption is ramping up slowly due to complexity and cost," according to a recent presentation by Forrester Research Inc.

That said, though, there will likely be an uptick in the acceptance of desktop virtualization for a couple of reasons. First, more vendors are offering virtual desktop infrastructures, which give each end user a private "desktop." VDIs use the same kind of hypervisors that allow many virtual machines to run on a single physical host. But rather than running five- or 10-server VMs on one physical server, a VDI can run 50 PC operating systems, each of which serves a single end user.

The other big change is support for peripherals, multimedia and other Web- and PC-focused technologies. Those haven't been available to users of shared-image terminal-services types of systems -- that is, traditional desktop virtualization setups -- but nowadays most other users think they can't live without them.

"Improvements in the user experience are really a big deal in making desktop virtualization more acceptable," says Andi Mann, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates Inc. (EMA).

Giving end users all the benefits and all the capabilities they'd have on stand-alone machines -- including the ability to add or update their own browser plug-ins, media players and other "extraneous" software -- could overcome most of the objections of business units that have kept virtual desktops out of the mainstream user base, Mann says.

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