VDI will never be the standard for desktop delivery

Deciding whether to use VDI comes down to manageability and cost, but it may never become the standard method of desktop delivery in the future.

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?

Gabe Knuth: Prior to -- and shortly after -- the release of Windows 7, most people around the world expected VDI to become a mainstream technology that organizations were using en masse to deliver Windows desktops. We thought that since we were going to have to upgrade the hardware as well as the OS, we might as well just move the desktops into the data center, too.

The problem is that moving to Windows 7 was enough of a challenge without throwing in the added complexity of VDI. That means that we just kept deploying Windows 7 the way we deployed Windows XP -- to desktops.

There's the history, but what does the future hold? Will VDI ever become mainstream? The biggest challenge is that the VDI experience at its best will never be as good as that of a local desktop. That means that the decision to go with VDI comes down to manageability and cost.

Manageability is sort of an easy win at this point, because the platforms are very robust. The cost, though, remains high when compared to business as usual. It is conceivable that recent advancements in technology, particularly from the storage sector, will finally make VDI a legitimate competitor to more traditional desktop deployment mechanisms. 

In truth, though, I don't believe we'll see VDI as the de-facto standard desktop delivery platform. I do, however, expect it to be commonly used in IT's never-ending quest for the best possible desktop management solution. If IT continues to deploy the most appropriate desktop to each user and can find ways to manage all the desktops as similarly as possible using, for instance, application virtualization and user environment virtualization, then VDI use will continue to grow.

If IT moves away from the Windows desktop in the distant future, you can be sure VDI and similar technologies will still be around to support legacy Windows applications, but I'd hardly call that mainstream. That’s no reason not to pursue VDI, though, because you can only decide whether you need it, after you know what it can do for you today.

This was first published in April 2013

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