Now that Windows 7 is here, what's your excuse for not virtualizing your desktops?
Many people in our industry (myself included) have said that the release of Windows 7 would be a turning point for desktop virtualization; specifically that a lot of people would wait until Windows 7 was out before jumping into the desktop virtualization fray. But now that Windows 7 is here, is it the catalyst that we all thought it would be?
I spend a lot of time speaking to audiences about desktop virtualization. One of my favorite questions to ask is "How many people here work at companies where Windows XP is the standard desktop platform?" Even now in mid-2010, about 99% of the folks in the audience raise their hands for Windows XP.
The reason, of course, is not that Windows XP is so good, but that Windows Vista is so bad. So most organizations just skipped Vista and stuck with Windows XP.
Asking the follow up question "How many people think that they'll standardize on Windows 7 at some point?" also produces about a 99% positive response.
But what does this have to do with desktop virtualization?
Virtualizing your production desktops is a big deal. Doing it right requires time, planning, money, piloting, testing and more planning. But with most companies skipping Vista and staying on Windows XP for now, no one really wants to go through all the effort of getting to virtual desktops just to end up on Windows XP again.
The same can be said about Windows 7. Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 is a big deal. There's no direct upgrade path, which means that even if you're planning on using your existing hardware for Windows 7 you're still going to have to wipe-and-install. As if that's not enough, though, Windows 7 is very different than Windows XP. Windows 7 has a new security model, different application compatibility, a new user profile system, and dozens of other little things that will make your migration difficult.
The point is that moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 is really disruptive and a big deal.
Getting back to desktop virtualization, it's easy to see why no one wanted to build out a new virtual desktop environment just to end up on Windows XP again if that meant they were going to have to rip out everything in a few years to move to Windows 7.
On the other side of that coin, no one wants to just deploy Windows 7 the "old" way, because it doesn't make sense to do the big painful migration to Windows 7 today just to have to migrate to desktop virtualization in a few years.
The best strategy is to do both at the same time. Figure out what you want to do for Windows 7 and what you want to do for desktop virtualization. Even if you don't actually do both migrations together, you can plan for both of them together. That way the desktop infrastructure you build today should last you more than a few years -- just like Windows XP did.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog, BrianMadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.