Three desktop virtualization trends that won't go away in 2013

Gabe Knuth shares more of his favorite desktop virtualization trends from the past year -- and these won't be leaving the forefront anytime soon.

Last week, I shared some of my favorite things from 2012 -- desktop virtualization trends and products that excited me during the year. But that's not all.

There are three more stories that will be important to the VDI industry as we head into 2013. Here's how Microsoft licensing, Dell acquisitions and the consumerization of IT will affect desktop virtualization pros in the new year:

Microsoft licensing remains a thorn in our sides

Last week I discussed the OnLive vs. Microsoft licensing controversy in depth, so what does that mean for admins in 2013?

One good thing about OnLive's misuse of Windows 7 licenses was that it called attention to the fact that Microsoft does not offer a Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) for Windows 7. Not only does OnLive have to deal with an issue like that, so do all the other Desktop as a Service (DaaS) providers in the world. As OnLive showed, the technology to effectively share hardware to run secure desktops exists, but organizations are prevented from using it by Microsoft's licensing practices.

That means that even though DaaS would be a perfect option for smaller deployments that want to access remote desktops without having to know all the intricacies of desktop virtualization, it's not cost-effective for a DaaS provider to put together standalone hardware for them.

More VDI news from 2012

Top 10 VDI news stories of the year

2012: A year of VDI acquisitions

VDI market shifts away from Terminal Services

It may sound like the only people affected are service providers, but there are still many challenges with Microsoft VDI licensing that will carry over into the new year. Using Windows 7 licenses with VDI requires Software Assurance (SA), and if your primary device doesn't have it, then you need to buy a Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license. On top of that, you're also required to buy additional VDA licenses for other devices accessing your virtual desktop.

Microsoft attempted to change this with Windows 8 licensing, adopting the Companion Device License (CDL). Purchasing a CDL in addition to SA or VDA entitles you to use up to four other devices while at the office. Sounds great, but if you try to take them home, you still have to have a VDA license for them. (Incidentally, if you buy a Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows RT, your license is included and you can use it whenever and wherever you want. Go figure.)

On top of all this, you are technically required to have a Microsoft Office license for every single device that accesses Office. That means that if you have a physical desktop, an Apple iPhone, iPad, virtual desktop and a laptop, you need five Office licenses, despite the fact that you already own it.  

We can only hope something changes with Microsoft licensing in 2013, but be careful what you wish for. Sometimes changes aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Dell goes acquisition-crazy

In the span of just a few months, Dell acquired two companies that are near and dear to the desktop virtualization market: Wyse Technology and Quest Software.

The acquisition of Wyse, makers of thin clients for the past 15 years and of dumb terminals for many years before that, was expected in light of the heavy competition that Dell was getting from Hewlett-Packard. HP thin clients are the largest competitor to Wyse, and Dell had almost no thin-client offering to speak of. The move made and continues to make sense. There's no doubt that Dell can be successful integrating Wyse's expertise in thin clients into their supply chain and sales channel in 2013.

The $2.4 billion Quest acquisition was more complicated, both because of the number of products that Quest had and because of the arduous task of sorting them out among the different Dell focuses. Quest has storage, monitoring and database management products that are highly regarded, and those took the lion's share of the spotlight post-acquisition. Still, our focus rested solely on what would happen with vWorkspace, one of the "Big Three" VDI and Remote Desktop Session Host platforms on the market. At first, Dell seemed content to let vWorkspace ride off into the sunset, but they're still making announcements and enhancing the product.

I've always had a soft spot for vWorkspace, and I hope that it remains in the discussion in 2013. There's much work to be done with Hyper-V 3, Windows Server 2012 and the changes that Microsoft has implemented in RemoteFX. Quest has been Microsoft's biggest supporter for many years, and I expect them to augment Microsoft's base technology with its own improvements this year.

Desktop virtualization feels the consumerization love

The last thing that sticks out to me about 2012 is that this was the year we really started to understand what the consumerization of IT and desktop virtualization are all about -- and why they always seem to go hand in hand.

Ultimately, all we care about as user-focused IT people is getting users access to their data and applications. How we go about doing that is different for every case, but with new devices and an empowered, technically savvy user base, we have our work cut out for us. Simply slapping a client on an iPad and sending down a published Windows app or desktop isn't enough. 

As the consumerization and virtualization trends ramp up in 2013, we see companies, including Citrix Systems and VMware, dedicating astonishing resources to mobility. Citrix Receiver is becoming a platform unto itself, with built-in security, mobile application management, email, calendaring and data. VMware's Horizon Suite uses cloud-based application management and provisioning, as well as mobile virtualization and data.

The end result is a blurring of the line between consumerization and desktop virtualization, which reinforces that our jobs are about effectively delivering and managing applications and data to the places where they're needed -- be it a Windows desktop, an iPhone or a Google Chromebook.

This was first published in December 2012

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