Why would anyone invest in a VDI startup? Maybe because enterprise IT is so bad

When a solution like virtual desktops is the height of your technology innovation, you're decidedly traditional enterprise IT.

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I’ve been an outspoken critic of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). What VDI does is package up a enterprise IT desktop (along with all its attendant applications) and enable that to be delivered, over the internet, to any device, anywhere.

My criticism of VDI has mainly been around the fact that desktop applications are fundamentally disconnected, monolithic things -- while delivering them via VDI does tick the "well, at least we're now mobile" box, it does little else. Where the future of enterprise IT lies in contextual applications, point solutions, mobile moments and other "bite-size" chunks of applications, all VDI does is support the existing (and, in my mind, broken) paradigm where it is.

There is, of course, an alternative view, one that suggests that enterprise applications are fundamentally broken and the overhead of supporting hundreds of thousands of individual devices and the applications that run on top of them is a major drain on enterprise productivity. The benefit of a VDI approach is that it allows central management, delivery and maintenance over those individual desktops -- essential the end device becomes a dumb terminal that simply runs a wrapped virtual desktop that allows the user to do whatever they need.

And while this concept sounds vaguely compelling, the user experience of virtual desktops is, in my experience, diabolical. I'm involved in one organization that is a big user of virtual desktops. Simply logging on to my account so I can check my email via Outlook on a virtual desktop is an exercise in frustration.

And yet . . . VDI is, counter-intuitively, a high-growth area. Much of Citrix's business is predicated on VDI of different flavors, and even Amazon Web Services, a vendor that one would expect to be at the forefront of everything cutting-edge, has a virtual desktop product for its enterprise customers.

And so, while VDI should be a thing that is merely an uneasy memory, it is still a big opportunity.

Witness the fact that Dizzion, a new vendor in the seemingly saturated VDI space, just picked up a $6.1 million Series A1 funding round co-led by investors Grotech Ventures and Access Venture Partners, with Point B Capital and Correlation Ventures rounding out major investments. Perhaps those investors are excited by the astonishing finding that VDI is expected to be a $11 billion market by 2023.

Dizzion itself has been around since 2011 and is focused beyond VDI on a broader end-user approach. Desktops as a service (DaaS) delivered from the cloud, secure endpoints, application delivery and storage are all part of Dizzion's product offering.

Which pretty much tells me that Dizzion is something of a carbon copy of both Citrix's and VMware's end-user computing businesses. It has come from a small base, but Dizzion has still managed to achieve 100% year-on-year growth for the past three years. Indeed, Dizzion claims a 207% annual revenue growth since its inception.

The company points to the usual industry changes in justifying its existence.

"Dizzion is addressing a colossal shift in the workforce toward remote employees, cloud computing and application integration -- and it's not an easy transition for most companies," said Steve Prather, CEO, Dizzion. "We are committed to providing the only virtual desktop that eliminates the complexity of traditional desktop management while addressing endpoint security and compliance risk, and we want to thank our investors for sharing in this vision."


Justifying VDI because enterprise IT is an abomination is the wrong way of looking at the problem. I've been pretty unequivocal in my view that VDI and its ilk does little to actually help organizations build toward a better future; if anything, it simply takes the pressure off them to become more innovative today.

Add to that the fact that Dizzion seems like a VMware or Citrix carbon copy (but without the brand recognition, partner network or scale) and you have a worrying proposition -- I'd not be investing my money here.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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