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

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VDI technology has made progress -- just not enough

VDI needs to be more cost-effective and ubiquitous if it's ever going to really take off. But that's not all…

Although the "year of VDI" never really came about, the desktop virtualization industry has seen many 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?

Todd Knapp: The question itself supposes that something has, in fact, had a big impact on VDI in 2013. Sadly, I'm not so sure that's happened yet. Nothing has had a big enough impact to make VDI see more adoption because there are still many obstacles to overcome.

I was told in 2010 that it was “the year of the desktop,” but there hasn't yet been a mass migration to virtual desktops like there was for servers. VDI's growth continues to be stunted because of I/O mitigation, departmentally installed apps (DIA), user installed apps (UIA), profiling complexity, and the fact that us nerds are often better at pushing buttons than we are at understanding how our users actually interact with technology.

Has there been progress? Absolutely. VMware is pushing hard on handling I/O inline on the hosts. VDI has been enhanced drastically this year with a number of technologies: memory-based VM provisioning (Atlantis Computing), hybrid storage arrays (Tintri), profile and DIA and UIA management (Liquidware Labs), protocol offload cards (Apex), GPU offload (NVIDIA), zero client endpoints (Wyse), and an array of dense computing platforms such as Dell's m650 blades.

VDI's work to be done

That said, VDI is still complex, and implementing it is a human services job. It's about understanding people. It's about how they work, but also about how they use their technology to create things when taking a brain break. It's data mobility, platform shift and human management all rolled into one.

VDI has to solve problems that users have.

So, what will have an impact? VDI will take hold when a few things happen:

First, VDI has to become cost competitive in the market when compared to other physical compute solutions.

Second, VDI has to solve problems that users have. The sell always seems to be that it's about making IT more efficient. That's a noble goal, but if you want upper management to buy the technology, you need to show them that their users will become more efficient.

Third, VDI needs to truly be ubiquitous -- any device, anywhere, anytime. We're close, but not there yet.

Fourth, we need end-user devices that are attractive, viable, low-cost and that enhance virtual desktop computing. Could this be some combination of wearable technology? Could it be Google Glass for output with a smart watch for input?

In any case, 2014 is coming. Personally, I'll be ringing in the new year by having eliminated every computer in my house. Nothing but thin clients now. I'm virtual and I'm not going back. I dare you to join me.

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

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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