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VDI clients have changed significantly over time, and part of the evolution is a trend toward browser-based clients.
There are plenty of VDI clients that are not browser based, but browser-based clients should eventually become the standard -- particularly HTML5 browsers. After all, browser-based clients are nothing new in the enterprise. Most network appliances have long provided a browser interface for configuration, monitoring and maintenance. Furthermore, many cloud-based applications such as Office 365 use browser interfaces. Even some consumer devices such as Wi-Fi routers use an HTML interface.
It would be incredibly shortsighted to say that just because some random appliances and applications use an HTML interface that HTML will become the standard for all of IT. Instead it will become the standard because of the fundamental changes that have occurred in IT over the last several years.
What's driving the rise of browser-based clients?
HTML5 browsers are far more powerful than previous versions of the technology. Developers can use HTML5 to create full-blown web applications that would have been impossible to build with earlier versions of HTML.
A second trend driving the use of browser-based clients is the growing diversity of endpoint types. Most organizations ran workloads primarily on Windows servers and accessed those workloads from Windows desktops or laptops. This is simply not the case anymore. It has become far more common for organizations to use a mix of Windows and Linux servers, and for users to have alternative devices such as Macs, Android and iOS tablets, Linux PCs, Chromebooks, smartphones and more.
The one thing all of these devices have in common is the browser. Although not every browser manufacturer adheres to the HTML5 standard perfectly, just about any current device should be able to render HTML5 browsers.
This is important because if a VDI client is HTML based, users can access the VDI deployment from the device of their choosing. As such, VDI vendors do not have to commit resources to creating client apps for every conceivable device. Administrators do not have to worry about keeping client software up to date across a wide variety of device types. Instead, users only need to keep their browsers up to date.
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Browsers will also become the universal client because users access widely varied and distributed resources. What happens for example, if a user needs to access two different virtual desktops? If the browser is acting as a VDI client, the user can simply navigate to the appropriate virtual resources without requiring dedicated client components.
At the same time, users can also use their browsers to access software as a service applications, virtualized applications and collaborative portals such as Microsoft SharePoint or Outlook Web App. The browser becomes a single point of access for all of these resources.
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