Five reasons why VDI adoption will never take off

Virtual desktop infrastructure remains a niche technology, and adoption won't take off because reliance on Windows is on the decline.

VDI adoption rates are up for debate. Depending on whom you ask, you might hear that virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is common across all types of enterprises, or you might be told that nobody is deploying virtual desktops.

To help you get a better sense of where VDI is today and how it will -- or won't -- grow in the future, we posed this question to desktop virtualization experts:

Will VDI ever be mainstream?

Matt Kosht: VDI has overcome many of its initial challenges -- prohibitive costs, heavy storage requirements and performance problems -- but it remains a niche use case.  VDI adoption won't go mainstream because of the following factors:

There are simpler, less expensive alternatives to VDI.

Less reliance on Windows. VDI is almost exclusively about delivering a Microsoft Windows desktop to a client, and much has changed in the workplace since its introduction. Organizations increasingly use mobile platforms such as iOS and Android, and PC sales have gone flat. Windows remains relevant because of the sheer inertia of its business applications.

Session-hosted virtualization. Session-based technologies such as Microsoft Remote Desktop Session Host, Citrix Systems' XenApp and Ericom Software's PowerTerm can address many nonpersistent application delivery challenges for a lot less money and with a lot less complexity than VDI can. For example, if a Mac user needs to run one or two business-critical hosted Windows applications, it's far simpler to publish the apps than to give him a full desktop he doesn't really need.

Desktop-hosted virtualization. There are also simpler, less expensive alternatives to VDI for use cases that do require a full, persistent Windows desktop. For example, MokaFive LivePC puts an encrypted virtual Windows desktop on the user's PC or Mac. IT can still manage the desktop from a central location without making the significant investment required when adopting VDI.

Microsoft licensing. Software costs and licensing complexity can significantly increase VDI's price tag. Microsoft wants you to buy a Windows license for each virtual desktop, even if you already use a Windows client.  Either you pay through a Software Assurance subscription for corporate desktops, or a Virtual Desktop Access license for other endpoints. 

Data access. Users don't care about the desktop as much as they care about getting at the data that the desktop provides, and organizations have an increasing number of options to provide this data securely to a number of endpoints.

VDI still has its use cases, but VDI adoption likely will decline as Windows desktops become less critical.

This was first published in May 2013

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