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Is there a "killer app" for desktop virtualization?

By introducing too many desktop virtualization technologies you may end up creating more problems than you solve.

At last week's BriForum conference, we closed the three-day event with a session called "Putting it all together." The session combined all the different technologies we'd been discussing that week into a single cohesive framework. This was a complex conversation covering server-based computing, terminal services, VDI, desktop streaming, application virtualization, client hypervisors, storage, security and user personalization.

Each of these technologies is supposedly able to save money or make desktop management easier, but none are appropriate for every use case.

For example, the following are three fine uses for different flavors of desktop virtualization that save real money today:

  • Client hypervisors to manage PC lifecycles
  • Application virtualization to decrease the time it takes to deploy and update applications
  • Server-based computing to provide secure access to applications from outside the firewall

But what happens when you combine these technologies listed above? Sure, geeks get excited about the prospects of building a single environment with client hypervisors, server-based computing and application streaming -- but for what? What use case is there that actually needs all three of these technologies in the same environment? Is there a "killer app" for the larger desktop virtualization situation, or does it really only work in the more focused single-technology wins?

In other words, it's easy to determine the tactical reason for deploying a single technology, but when you combine several discrete technologies together, you end up with a complex solution for a bigger problem that doesn't exist. Even if the three technologies could solve three tactical problems on their own, the actual act of combining them probably outweighs (in terms of complexity) whatever advantages you'd get from solving the problems in the first place.

So what can you do?

First, as with any new technology implementation, make sure you're using the products you buy to solve real problems you're facing today. If you can use two technologies to solve two problems, great! If you need two products to solve one joint problem, great! But make sure that you don't introduce more problems than you solve.

Second, be careful not to get "sucked in" by the coolness of virtualization. Yes, there are some amazing technologies out there; but remember that just because you can combine six different products into your desktop strategy doesn't mean that you should.

Finally, remember that the newest or trendiest way to solve a problem isn't always the best in every case. Desktop virtualization products might make your desktops easier to manage, but so do "old school" products like Altiris Client Management Suite or Microsoft SMS / SCCM. Sure, server-based computing is a sexy way to access your applications from outside the firewall, but a VPN works too.

Brian Madden, Independent Industry Analyst and Blogger
Brian Madden is known throughout the world as an opinionated, super technical, fiercely independent desktop virtualization expert. He's written several books and over 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Brian's blog,, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. Brian is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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