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VDI makes Windows 10 S slightly more appealing to businesses, but its benefits don't outweigh the limitations of Microsoft's lightweight operating system.
The knock against Windows 10 S, Microsoft's competitor to Google Chrome OS, is it only runs applications that are available in the Windows Store. Citrix and VMware offer workarounds for this problem with their Receiver and Workspace One products, respectively, which allow users to access virtualized applications that aren't on the Windows Store. But some IT pros don't think VDI on Windows 10 S is the right solution.
"Why would you go in that direction?" said Dominic Namnath, CIO at Tri-Counties Regional Center, a nonprofit organization and Citrix XenApp customer in Santa Barbara, Calif. "If I can simply add an app to my environment, that's just great. But if you say to me, 'Hey, you can use this app, but you have to use this service,' it's probably not a good idea."
'A lot of extra legwork'
There is a lack of options for certain applications in the Windows Store. For example, the only browser available is Microsoft Edge. And organizations that want to deploy custom native applications to Windows 10 S would have to develop for the Universal Windows Platform to get those apps in the Windows Store.
"That takes a lot of extra legwork," said Robert Young, research director at IDC. "Not being able to get up different browsers I think would be a nonstarter for a lot of organizations."
Investing in an operating system that's incompatible with critical applications, then having to invest more in VDI to run those applications, can bring unnecessary costs and complexity.
"[VDI] isn't cheap, and you're hitching your wagon to it even more," Namnath said.
Dominic NamnathCIO at Tri-Counties Regional Center
For organizations that have already invested in VDI and built out their infrastructure to support the full amount of apps users need, Windows 10 S devices could make sense, he said. VMware and Citrix also offer application delivery through the cloud, which can mitigate some of the cost of maintaining VDI on premises.
But the bandwidth issues an organization may face by deploying more virtualized applications -- either on premises or from the cloud -- can make the user experience suffer, Namnath said.
"Why add two layers of complexity if you don't have to?" he said.
The benefits of VDI on Windows 10 S
The combination of Windows 10 S and VDI does have some enterprise appeal regarding security. Microsoft has vetted all the apps on the Windows Store to protect against malware and other threats. And because virtualized applications don't actually live on the device, that offers additional protections, said Matt Kosht, an IT director at a utility company in Alaska.
"[VDI] gives the business a way to control the apps the user will need that aren't in the store," he said.
Jack Gold, principal and founder of J. Gold Associates, an industry analyst firm in Northborough, Mass., agreed.
"That's why it's attractive to enterprises," Gold said. "Microsoft took out the ability to run corporate apps. What VDI gives you is the ability to make these things corporate citizens."
After the recent WannaCry cyberattack, many organizations are in a panic trying to patch their systems and might be interested in the security that Windows 10 S offers, said Rory Monaghan, an independent consultant in Phoenix.
"A bare OS could provide a much-reduced surface level for such an attack," Monaghan said. "Windows 10 S makes a lot of sense."
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