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AI and machine learning enhance VDI, but cost is still a hang-up

There are new trends fueling VDI software, including the addition of AI and machine learning to better help IT, but cost is still an issue when it comes to VDI adoption.

IT departments will benefit from AI and machine learning capabilities in desktop virtualization software, but there...

are still challenges around cost.

IT professionals can use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in VDI software, such as Citrix's Analytics Service, to track virtual desktop user activity, so administrators can respond to abnormalities. These emerging capabilities may appeal to many organizations, but cost complexities around infrastructure and IT staff still hold back widespread VDI adoption.

There are many variables IT needs to be aware of when measuring the cost of VDI, such as storage, said Robert Young, research director at IDC. Plus, fewer organizations are deploying VDI on premises and are instead adopting desktop as a service (DaaS) to try and mitigate the cost of infrastructure, Young said.

Here, Young illustrates how new trends may change the market, how new technology will benefit IT and what the future of VDI looks like. 

What's in the way of VDI adoption for organizations?

Robert Young: Once they get to 1,000 or more VDI desktops, performance starts to lag, and storage and server requirements are overwhelming. So, how do they scale?

It's the large upfront capital cost that's a challenge. Storage and networking gear, trained staffs that can deploy and manage the VDI environment all add up. If organizations can't find the expertise, that'll be a problem.

To address this, you can do DaaS or hybrid [VDI and DaaS], but there are so many of these products and providers to choose from -- it's overwhelming. It stops a VDI project in its tracks before it gets going.

Robert Young, research director at IDCRobert Young

Is VDI at least getting cheaper?

Young: You really need to get into the weeds of an organization to know. Most companies I talk to at best break even. They're not necessarily going to save a lot on devices, but they want to be able to do a lot of business activity with just a Chromebook, [for example].

If they have legacy apps and older operating systems, then VDI can be a requirement. VDI saves them from rewriting a ton of legacy apps, which saves a ton of money.

What new trends do you see in the industry?

Young: We are seeing VDI positioned more toward security and mitigating vulnerabilities through AI and machine learning. It's not just Citrix. VMware is talking about this, too.

VDI software has a lot of useful data. IT can know when and where users access applications and set rules for them to follow. They're able to track that I was accessing my desktop in Boston, but then [it was] accessed from China a minute later, and they can flag that and know something is wrong there.

If you invest in [VDI], you need to know it's secure and be able to stop attacks before they become an issue.
Robert Youngresearch director at IDC

It's about getting insight across your user base. If you invest in [VDI], you need to know it's secure and be able to stop attacks before they become an issue.

Will AI integration boost VDI adoption overall?

Young: If you weren't already thinking about doing VDI, I don't know that [AI] would make you go out and do it. But I think buyers and customers will love that.

Where do you see VDI going forward?

Young: Where the growth seems to be moving toward is DaaS. It makes sense because we already run so many things from the cloud today, like modern [software-as-a-service] apps. Now, you are just running your legacy apps in a SaaS-like way. It makes sense for enterprises and smaller businesses.

It's early days [for DaaS], but you're seeing more of these things in the cloud and putting a layer of cognitive computing to put valuable insights back to the customer. That could be related to performance, user experience and security.

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