Boundaries blur as data center-hosted desktops get closer to cloud

Ed Tittel

Although the "year of VDI" never really came about, the desktop virtualization industry has seen a lot of changes over the past year. Cloud computing, the consumerization of IT and improved graphics delivery have all contributed to a better virtual desktop experience -- making virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) viable in more organizations.

To help you get a handle on the big picture of VDI, we posed this question to five desktop virtualization experts:

What technologies or trends had the biggest impact on VDI in 2013?

Ed Tittel: There's a strong tendency to think of VDI and Desktop as a Service [DaaS] as mutually contradictory, if not antithetical to one another. But IT has evolved to rely so much on cloud computing that the difference between the two technologies is becoming far less defined.

It's true that most definitions of VDI depend on organizations to procure, maintain and host the servers, and buy the software on which the infrastructure for data center-hosted desktops rests. But given the tendency to move all aspects of IT into the cloud nowadays -- or at least as many aspects as make sense -- and the increasing tendency of data centers to play host to private clouds on their own, the boundary now seems to lie between "my cloud" (VDI) and somebody else's cloud (DaaS). This may be something of a nugatory distinction.

Clearly, the trend is into the cloud across the board for most aspects of IT. Why should the impetus to desktop virtualization be any different? Given its combination with remote access, even to the point of supporting non-Windows mobile clients of all kinds, the distinction between VDI and DaaS appears to rest on who's selling what, rather than on who's buying access to virtual desktops.

As we march boldly into 2014, there's no doubt that mobile, remote access to virtualized Windows (and other) desktops is going nowhere but up. It's the service and platform vendors' jobs to come up with compelling, cost-effective and usable ways to make their technologies workable for end users and appealing to the organizations that acquire the hardware and software needed for VDI or the services needed for DaaS.

Ultimately, we may decide that DaaS and VDI have enough in common that it's not strictly necessary to draw a strong line between these two types of hosted desktops.

Stay tuned for more responses to this question as we determine the biggest trends of the year.

View the next item in this Essential Guide: Top 10 VDI news stories of 2013 or view the full guide: What technology trends had the biggest impact on VDI in 2013?

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