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Do mobile users need full desktop access?

Desktop virtualization isn't the only way to get Windows apps on non-Windows devices, but VMware's CTO says there's still a need for it in some cases.

LAS VEGAS -- The rise of smartphones and tablets has businesses and IT departments reexamining their desktop and application delivery strategies beyond VDI.

Scott DavisScott Davis

The challenge is to give users access to the applications they need (which typically are Windows based) from the devices they want (which increasingly aren't). Desktop virtualization has done this for years by abstracting full operating system instances from users' endpoint hardware, but as more native mobile alternatives to Windows apps emerge, not every user will need full desktop access.

Most of the major players in desktop and application delivery have jumped headfirst into the enterprise mobility market. VMware Inc., for example, took its VDI product, View, and made it part of the new Horizon Suite, which also provides desktop image management through Horizon Mirage, and mobile application and data access through Horizon Workspace.

Scott Davis, VMware's chief technology officer for end-user computing, spoke with SearchVirtualDesktop at the Interop conference last week about the rise of mobility and how it will change desktop and application delivery.

Does desktop virtualization have a role in the mobile world? Is there a need for full desktop access?

Scott Davis: Absolutely. It's definitely part of this. If we're walking around with devices that don't run Windows, and we're going to have a long tail of line-of-business applications -- look, people are still running mainframes. How antiquated is that?

Windows apps are shrinking in importance, no question about it. But they're going to be with us for a long time. There are going to be many apps that are not worth it to port from Windows. So, VMware is very much investing in delivering the richest user experience from Windows as a Service delivered to non-Windows devices.

And is that still the full desktop, or can we just focus on delivering specific Windows apps?

Davis: Over time, I think apps are going to supplant desktops. I think there are use cases for both. They're both important. Windows did a lot of things for us. It was this monolithic entity. But if you look at a Windows desktop, there are multiple components to it that you can actually tease apart.

One of them is, how do I execute apps? That's really a feature of a device. Another aspect is things … like my printer settings, my Wi-Fi settings, my documents. I want these to span my devices. These are aspects of me. Another big piece is the application runtimes, services like Win32, .NET, Visual Basic. That's the thing that's going to be the longest tail of Windows, and I see those being delivered as services.

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Check out what Scott Davis had to say at Interop about VMware creating mobile application management standards

This concept of layers -- it's the approach VMware takes with the Mirageproduct. That's focused on managing physical desktops now, but will that expand?

Davis: I definitely see Mirage as being the image management solution for Windows across the board -- not just physical, but virtual as well. It does work [for VDI] today, but there are some scaling issues that we need to address, and we plan to.

It was very much designed to burn computes and I/Os and minimize traffic over a WAN. If you do that with many images on a vSphere server in the data center for VDI, you don't want to be burning computes and I/Os in order to save network bandwidth. So, we need to adjust the technology.

Do you still see VDI as the predominant way to deliver a full Windows desktop, or do you see other options, like Desktop as a Service, replacing that?

Davis: Windows' licensing terms at the moment are holding back that market some, but there's still a lot of interest in it, regardless. We'll see what happens over time. Microsoft doesn't offer [a Services Provider License Agreement] for client OSes. It's an artificial barrier to something that customers want to do.

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Do you think VDI has a role in the mobile world?
Folks really just want MS Office on their iPad or Android tablet. Until MS comes out with a version off office, there will be some need for VDI on these devices. But once MS does release a mobile friendly version of office, VDI demand on mobile devices with wither.
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