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What does the desktop virtualization market hold for 2015?

DaaS, BYOD and Linux support made the experts' list of the big trends of 2014, and they hope the pain points associated with those technologies will find solutions in the coming year.

As 2014 winds to a close, we can take a step back and see what the biggest trends in the virtualization world were. That information also makes it easier to tell what might be in store for 2015.

Desktop virtualization market news was populated with vendor product announcements, leadership changes and strategic tweaks, but provider-specific topics weren't what three SearchVirtualDesktop experts pinpointed as the biggest trends of the year.

Contributors said mobility, the bring your own device (BYOD) trend, desktop as a service (DaaS),  Linux, and the evolution and fate of Windows were the hottest topics of the year. They also predicted that the pain points associated with those trends will see solutions in the year to come.

Read on to get more details on what experts thought about 2014 and what's to come in 2015.

Brien Posey

The biggest trend that I have been seeing is the lines blurring between VDI and BYOD. Users access virtual desktops on mobile devices with greater frequency, so a lot of the attention is turning toward mobile device management (MDM), security and support.

I think that in 2015, there is going to be a much bigger emphasis on cross-platform support. There is going to be a big push to make sure virtual desktops, virtual applications and traditional apps look and behave the same way on a variety of devices. I also think that management vendors will do a lot of work to ensure a much more consistent management experience from one device type to the next. This is an area where things are really lacking.

I was looking at one MDM tool a few days ago that had very little consistency among its features. A feature might work for PC, but not Google Android. Or it might work for Android, but not Apple iOS. This is a really common problem, and I think it is something that is going to have to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Robert Sheldon

What I think has been interesting to watch -- and will continue to be -- is the future of the Windows desktop operating system going forward.

Although Microsoft loosened its licensing structure around virtualization this year, the change is limited to Software Assurance customers and the Enterprise edition. Even then, Microsoft made no mention of DaaS. SMBs are pretty much left out in the cold. On top of this, Windows 8 has been a fiasco, and what adoption there has been is a result of customers being forced into the new OS. XP is no longer supported and Windows 7 doesn't have that much longer to go. Consumers and companies forced into using Windows 8 have not been happy.

Enter into this mix the advances in cloud computing, mobility, HTML5 and virtualization, and it seems that we're moving into an area where anything is possible. One of those possibilities is that the technologies are now out there to break Microsoft's stronghold on the desktop industry.

With virtualization, whether you deliver it in-house or via DaaS, the concept of thin client computing is becoming more feasible all the time, making the OS irrelevant to a great degree. We might see more Chromebook-like options emerge. And out of the box, admins can use Linux desktops for Web-based apps or to run thin clients. We're already seeing some big names using Linux desktops: Google, NASA, CERN and the U.S. Department of Defense. 

Windows is still, of course, the primary OS out there, in no small part because of all the Windows-based applications and services. But even Microsoft is moving to a cloud-based model in many areas, and is promising to continue to move in that direction.

For example, Office 365 is now available on iOS and Android devices for free. Office Online (formerly Office Web Apps) is accessible through several different browsers. Windows isn't going away any time soon, but change is definitely in the air. I think desktop virtualization -- particularly DaaS -- is going to play a significant role going forward in ways that we haven't even yet begun to realize.

Alastair Cooke

After years of talking about putting VDI deployments on solid-state storage, I think 2014 was the year I talked to more customers using solid-state drives (SSD) for VDI than those not. New vendors, such as Nimble and Pure, are gaining market traction and delivering great storage for VDI. Longer-standing vendors are also doing a better job of delivering the storage that utilizes flash performance. The improving economics of delivering nearly unlimited IOPS per desktop are removing a big pain area for VDI deployment.

2014 was also the year DaaS became a big thing.  I wouldn't say it was the "Year of DaaS," but suddenly DaaS was available from multiple major vendors. There are some interesting uses for DaaS and I think a big one is extending the life of Windows applications when people don’t want to use a Windows device. I would like to see some real mobile thin clients in 2015. The VMware, Nvidia and Google demonstrations of a Chromebook accessing a View desktop are very interesting. If hotel Internet connections were more reliable I could see myself travelling with just a Chromebook and not having any concerns if it got lost or damaged.

In 2015 I expect to see more interest in non-virtualization-based desktops in data centers. I talked to one customer who is deploying Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) onto bare metal rather than into a virtual machine (VM). We know RDSH is a hard workload to run in a VM, and that with 64-bit operating systems, RDSH can fully use a modern server. Cartridge-based computing -- such as Hewlett-Packard's Moonshot -- is the next phase of the blade architecture that enabled greater density.

And then there's open source VDI. At the OpenStack Summit in Paris, I heard about a very early-stage project to deliver VDI desktops from an OpenStack cloud. The hypervisor license cost may not be a huge part of the cost of VDI, but every opportunity for saving money helps. There are already VDI products based on Linux desktops, but what if the virtualization platform and broker were free? The fly in the ointment here is that VDI is all about the applications, and most businesses use Windows applications rather than Linux desktop applications.

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What do you think is in store for the virtualization world in 2015?
I'm expecting to see improvements in security, functionality, and efficiency - but not the kinds of major releases we've seen in years past. Virtualization has reached the point where it's effective, and most of what people can add now is in the realm of tweaks and updates.

I do, however, expect larger changes in the years after 2015 - this year feels like the calm before the storm, and I, for one, am glad for the prep-time.
Hi James -- Thanks for the comment. that's an interesting take on the year ahead. What big things are you anticipating for 2016 and beyond?
Love all this great commentary from the experts in the arena. Interesting that DaaS came up. I wonder how it will be positioned in 2015 against true VDI?

-- Karen Bannan, commenting on behalf of IDG and VMware.