Desktop virtualization: Will Windows 7 change the game?

Some customers will bite, but widespread desktop virtualization adoption is still years off

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Kohn has been supervising the bank's tests of Citrix USB and multimedia support, connecting non-virtualized users to VDI-based virtual desktops. The tests have gone well and most users like being able to use the newest operating systems and the speed and power they get from a dedicated VM running on a bank server, rather than the same applications running on an aging PC.

Another benefit: Because the "desktop" each user accesses sits on a server in the data center that IT patches and upgrades, end users have had fewer problems from viruses, malware and misconfigured applications, Kohn says.

If the bank ends up migrating those users permanently to VDI-based virtual desktops, they should continue to see top performance, because the bank upgrades servers faster than it would refresh PCs, Kohn explains. The decision about whether to migrate those users or more widely adopt the latest version of XenDesktop won't be made until its tests are complete, however, he says.

No rush to virtualize, with or without Windows 7

Given all the variables that are still up in the air, there probably won't be an explosion of Windows 7-inspired desktop virtualization in Corporate America anytime soon, according to Michael Rose, client hardware analyst at IDC. Traditional shared-session virtual desktops will remain popular in their traditional niches -- whether with Windows 7 or other OSes, Rose says. It will take time, however, even for companies eager to use newer VDI systems to add the network and server capacity they require.

   virtualization

"It would involve significant spending in the data center to accommodate adding vast numbers of users on virtual machines," he said. "Desktop virtualization will continue largely to be a tactical technology, though as it moves more toward the endpoint device -- handhelds and other nontraditional hardware -- there's more of a possibility it will become very common."

Bottom line: Windows 7 could be a catalyst for some additional virtualization, given improvements in the technology that have helped mitigate concerns over relative performance, perceived lack of personalization and other issues. However, this technology isn't seamlessly stitched together yet. Administrators still have to master the nuances and best practices, and few will want to make the transition at the same time they convert over to Windows 7.

Kevin Fogarty, a former Computerworld editor and columnist, is a freelance writer covering information technology, science and engineering. Reach him at kfogarty@technologyreporting.com.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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