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February 26, 2012

Virtual Desktops are the gateway to cloud computing

Virtual desktops (vDTs) are not typically perceived as harbingers of Cloud Computing. For one thing, Microsoft makes it challenging for Cloud providers to host them. And cloud computing frameworks generally do not include virtual desktops – even VMware vCloud Director lacks integration with VMware View. Nonetheless, virtual desktop deployments are increasingly acting as gateways to cloud computing.

Virtual Desktops are Already Cloud-Like

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides five characteristics of cloud computing:

  • On-demand self-service
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity
  • Measured service

Virtual desktops may not yet be provisioned via self-service, but they certainly can be deployed rapidly and on demand from resource pools. And while most cloud monitoring tools such as VMware Chargeback do not specifically address vDTs, relatively easy modifications should enable this capability.

Transitioning from physical to virtual desktops already entails an IT staff shift to a cloud-like mindset. Centralized vDT administration enables improved security and regulatory compliance without encrypting data on local devices. The vDTs are more easily managed and can be replicated off-site for disaster recovery purposes.

Virtual desktops also introduce users to the idea of accessing compute resources from a remote pool and the benefits that this cloud attribute enables. They now can run their applications and access their data from nearly any device at any location with network or Internet connectivity. Downtime due to hardware maintenance or troubleshooting issues is significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. New employees can receive their virtual desktops instantly rather than wait days or weeks for the physical versions to be requisitioned, delivered and deployed.

VMware’s expanded perception of the desktop contributes to a VDI-driven cloud experience. VMware maintains that the desktop should extend to the cloud, and considers the traditional Windows-based desktop as “legacy”. Under the VMware scenario, IT provides users with secure and high quality consumption of both cloud and Windows applications.

Consolidation of Remote Office Infrastructures

Remote offices may have their own servers, back-ups and UPS devices that do not easily integrate into cloud computing frameworks. But VDI often enables consolidating the remote office servers and supporting infrastructures back to the data center as part of the virtual architecture. A potential side benefit is the alleviation of the “step children” syndrome since the remote offices no longer must make due with hand-me-down equipment, inadequate disaster recovery plans and limited IT support.

VDI is Hot

A surprisingly high number of organizations are piloting or considering VDI. Some cloud-savvy partners (I like the term “cloud integrators”) use virtual desktop inquiries as door-openers to discuss cloud computing. While they can emphasise obvious cloud benefits such as financial savings, faster time-to-market and scalability, the most important advantage may be slashing the time sink of infrastructure planning, administration and troubleshooting. The IT staff can instead work with technology to make their organizations more innovative, efficient and competitive.  

Implementing virtual desktops on an enterprise scale enables similar time-saving benefits for the desktop IT team. Cloud integrators can mesh the two technologies in one conversational thread, potentially leveraging the initial VDI discussion to result in a cloud computing implementation.

 

Mark Vaughn (@mvaughn25) of Presidio contributed to this post.

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3 Responses to Virtual Desktops are the gateway to cloud computing

  1. IT provides users with secure and high quality consumption of both cloud and Windows applications.

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