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What technology trends had the biggest impact on VDI in 2013?

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Desktop virtualization technology booms and busts of 2013

Storage was a boom while Windows 8 was a bust this year in the desktop virtualization space.

Sometimes it's hard to sort through an entire year to decide which trends or products are noteworthy. Usually, you can either chalk that up to an unexciting year or just one where there's too much to pick from.

This year, I didn't have either of those problems with desktop virtualization technology. It became very easy to categorize the biggest trends of 2013 as a boom or a bust.

Booms

Desktop virtualization storage. 2013 was the year we saw two of the major roadblocks to desktop virtualization adoption conquered, and storage was one of them. Just 18 months ago, most desktop virtualization deployments were hampered by the cost of building them around big iron storage systems. In the backs of our minds, we all knew there had to be a better way -- that we didn’t need to have all the features that come with SANs to support our desktops --  but the range of alternatives wasn't very large.

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This year, no fewer than 10 companies brought desktop virtualization-specific products to the market that allow virtualization shops to use lower cost, even local storage for desktops while still getting the performance that is as good as or even exceeds that of using SANs. Atlantis, Tegile, GreenBytes, Infinio, Liquidware Labs, Nimble, PureStorage, Tintri, Whiptail, Nexenta (and many others) all have products now. Even EMC, which bought XtremIO before that company launched a product, now has a product for sale.

Desktop virtualization administrators no longer need to mortgage IOPS across users, trying to generalize users into buckets of 10 IOPS or 25 IOPS. You can go back to 2005 when nobody knew or cared about IOPS.  Storage optimization for desktop virtualization technology is now a commodity. That's all we ever wanted.

Real, actual, bona-fide 3-D graphics. The other roadblock that was overcome in 2013 was 3-D graphics. Yes, we thought we had that covered years ago, and every vendor has always said they had 3-D support, but it wasn't until Nvidia showed off their GRID line of virtualized GPUs that we saw what we were missing. Textures, shading, and multiple light sources are all things that real 3-D designers need to have that organizations could never offer them until today.

This, combined with storage, means that all of the major barriers to VDI adoption have been solved.

Busts

Windows 8. Sure, Windows 8 was released in October of 2012, but admins have had an entire year to sit on it and try to find a broad use case in their organizations. Few companies have found one that goes beyond having Windows apps running natively on tablets. There has been even less interest in the Surface RT tablet -- you know, the one that looks like it runs Windows because it has a desktop and Microsoft Office, but doesn't really do anything else?

There's no impetus for people to move to Windows 8 at scale. You're all (hopefully) wrapping up your XP migrations, but only because you have to. And, since everyone is moving to Windows 7, which doesn't reach end of life until January 2020, no one is feeling any pressure. Microsoft is having a devil of a time with sequels -- just like the original Star Trek movies.

That said, I will hold out hope for Windows 8.1, which adds some enterprise-friendly features, such as the ability to manage a device without it being owned by the company or joined to the domain.

Microsoft licensing. Two burns on Microsoft, but they'll get some love in the next part of this series, about what's to come in 2014. I've written a lot about Microsoft, VDA, and SPLA licenses, and I'm just sick of talking about it. Microsoft is consistently making life difficult for corporations and service providers, and it doesn't seem to care one bit about it because they have us over a barrel. Until we don't need Windows apps any longer, we still need Windows, so we're stuck.

 

This was first published in December 2013

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Essential Guide

What technology trends had the biggest impact on VDI in 2013?

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