Virtual desktop adoption in 2012 to continue slow pickup

Virtual desktop adoption remains slow and low and some IT managers in Windows shops say they aren't interested in the technology at all. Web-based applications are partly to blame.

More Windows shops will give desktop virtualization a chance in 2012 than this year, but the percentage of companies that plan to virtualize desktops companywide is miniscule and many shops have no interest in moving away from PCs, according to a recent survey.

Though major vendors continue to push the virtues of desktop virtualization, as they have for years, 33% of the 560 respondents to the Windows Purchasing Intentions 2012 survey conducted by TechTarget said they have no interest in virtualizing desktops.

"Desktop virtualization looks like it's going to be [used for] a specialized instance," said Dave Sobel, CEO of the IT consultancy Evolve Technologies in Fairfax, Va. "It's not for everyone."

About 26% of the survey respondents said they will evaluate desktop virtualization in 2012, though. Around 14% said they evaluated it this year and 16% of survey respondents said they deployed virtual desktops in some departments. Only about 4% virtualized desktops companywide.

Though those percentages are relatively small, the numbers in this year's survey show more interest in desktop virtualization than last year, when 42% of the 671 respondents said they had no interest in desktop virtualization (compared to 33% this year). At that time, only 22% said they would evaluate desktop virtualization in 2011, compared to the 26% of IT pros who plan to evaluate desktop virtualization in 2012.

Eugene Alfaro, director of IT engineering services at Cornerstone Technologies, an IT consultancy in Campbell, Calif., said the numbers reflect what industry watchers expect. "A marathon rather than a sprint … compared to the adoption of virtual [server] infrastructure in 2006 and 2007."

IT pros say virtual desktop adoption is glacial because the total cost of ownership and return on investment of VDI and other desktop virtualization technologies remains difficult to justify.

Some say desktop virtualization adoption is slow -- and low -- because there are too many roadblocks: lack of support for user installed apps and hard to virtualize applications, high storage costs and system complexity.

Additionally, it is nearly impossible to virtualize 100% of desktops using virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) software available today, so companies virtualizing desktops use a mix of desktop virtualization tools, such as VDI, application virtualization software or workstation virtualization. Having to use multiple tools adds to the overall complexity and software cost.

Additionally, some IT pros said the growing popularity of Web-based applications make desktop virtualization less important.

"What makes Web-enabled applications and cloud-based service formidable … is not merely the applications already available online and continuing to be available, but also the presence of major names such as Microsoft with online offerings," Alfaro said. "Microsoft markets cloud-based services more than its virtual desktops technologies."

But, cloud services haven't completely overshadowed the benefits of desktop. More than 63% of the survey respondents who will evaluate desktop virtualization in 2012 said centralized endpoint management is the driving force. The second biggest reason to virtualize desktops, cited by about 56% of respondents, is to lower management costs. About 42% of respondents said centralized application maintenance is a reason to go virtual.

Lower hardware costs and better distributed security are also considered reasons to virtualize desktops, and about 24% of respondents said they will virtualize desktops as part of an overall virtual data center plan.

Just over 62% of the IT shops using desktop virtualization software or that plan to use it choose VMware products (VMware View, ThinApp or VMware Workstation). Over 49% of respondents use Microsoft products such as RDS, App-V and Med-V, and over 39% of respondents use Citrix software such as XenApp, XenDesktop or XenClient.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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