Article

Desktop virtualization intrigues IT pros despite cost

Bridget Botelho

IT pros are more interested in desktop virtualization this year, but hardware and software costs still hinder deployment.

TechTarget Inc.'s "Virtualization Decisions 2009 Purchasing Intentions Survey" of more than 900 IT professionals released this month shows that while desktop virtualization is still an underdog technology, there is growing interest, primarily because of its management benefits.

About 35% of survey respondents said they are not interested in deploying desktop virtualization. While there is no apples-to-apples comparison, "

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Data Center Decisions 2008 Purchasing Intentions Survey" asked a mix of IT professionals the same question, and 43% said they had no interest in desktop virtualization. These findings are similar those in the recent Virtualization Management Survey Report by Boulder, Colo.-based consulting firm Focus, which found that only 21% of 262 respondents had adopted desktop virtualization.

Desktop virtualization may gain ground in 2010
In this year's virtualization survey, nearly 20% of all respondents said they are evaluating desktop virtualization this year, and another 20% said they plan to do so in 2010. Nineteen percent said they have deployed it in at least some departments since 2008, and about 5% said they've deployed it companywide in that time frame.

For more on desktop virtualization:
Virtual desktop cost, complexity overshadows benefits

Bank steps up application virtualization with XenApp 5 Sp2

 Nearly two-thirds (61%) of IT pros who have adopted desktop virtualization cited reduced management cost as the main driver. More than half (54%) of these respondents said their decision to adopt desktop virtualization was made to reduce hardware costs, even though the initial cost of acquiring servers and infrastructure to support the technology is also viewed as a deterrent in the survey. Of the 900 survey respondents, 70% are IT managers and administrators, 19% are consultants, and 10% are executives.

Tony Wilburn, a senior systems engineer and virtualization consultant at Betis Group Inc., said desktop virtualization can save on hardware budgets, but getting a return on investment (ROI) takes at least 18 months. And software licensing costs need to be considered, he said. Betis is an Arlington, Va.-based IT services company and a longtime user of VMware View desktop virtualization.

"People are used to getting Windows basically for free with their PC purchase. With a VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] implementation, you have to account for the cost of VMware View or competitors' products and for Windows licenses," Wilburn said. "These additional costs along with the purchase of some type of management software ... will drive the costs up to the cost of a traditional PC."

Ben Kohn, a senior systems architect at Ionia, Mich.-based Independent Bank Corp., uses Citrix Systems Inc.'s XenApp and terminal services. He agreed that while desktop virtualization can bring long-term cost savings, reducing hardware costs should not be a primary driver.

"You may see a significant drop in your investment per endpoint from a hardware perspective, but those savings are offset to a large degree by increased costs in your data center for server-class hardware, SAN [storage-area network] storage, virtualization software licensing and Microsoft licensing," because Microsoft requires a VECD (Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop), he said.

Wilburn said the benefits of desktop virtualization outweigh the initial costs, though, especially since the ROI is about 18 months, while the traditional PC lifespan is three to four years. Moreover, "the reduction in management costs for a VDI solution over a traditional PC environment make up for any cost discrepancies," he said.

Other reasons that respondents cited for deploying or planning to deploy desktop virtualization included better distributed security (43%) and application streaming (37%). About 35% of respondents interested in desktop virtualization said the technology is part of an overall virtualization strategy.

Wilburn said that desktop virtualization enhances security because end user "data is contained in the data center on a SAN," but noted that Windows desktops are still beholden to the security failings of the underlying operating system.

"The desktop still needs to be secured beyond just virtualizing it," Wilburn said.

As for application streaming, which is performed in VMwareView via ThinApp and by Citrix XenApp, Wilburn said it is a benefit but not reason enough to virtualize desktops. Doing desktop virtualization as part of an overall virtualization strategy makes sense -- up to a point, he said.

"It does make it easier to manage when all your systems are on the same platform. But again, it's not enough of a reason if there are not other prevailing reasons," Wilburn said.

One desktop virtualization driver that was not an option on the survey is an imminent desktop OS upgrade, such as Windows 7.

"It will be much easier for organizations to put in a VDI solution to move to Windows 7 than to replace old hardware [to have] enough resources to handle Windows 7," Wilburn said.

Limited by cost, desktop virtualization evaluations, deployments slow
While the number of respondents with desktop virtualization deployments is small, plenty of IT pros are evaluating it: Almost 20% said they are evaluating it this year, and more than 20% of Virtualization Decisions survey respondents said they plan to evaluate desktop virtualization in 2010.

The majority of companies considering or using desktop virtualization (69%) said they use VDI. About 49% use shared desktop systems, such as Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Terminal Services, and about 40% use application virtualization products such as Citrix's XenApp or Microsoft SoftGrid.

Cost remains the biggest disincentive to adoption of desktop virtualization. About 29% of respondents saying the technology is too expensive. Hardware expense is another hurdle -- more than 24% of survey respondents said their existing servers can't accommodate all of their desktops as virtual machines (VMs) and don't want to buy new servers.

About 24% of respondents said they won't adopt desktop virtualization until product options mature, and more than 20% said they haven't adopted the technology because they won't get budget approval until 2010. Another 19% said the technology doesn't make sense for the number of users at their organizations.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.


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