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Desktop virtualization, step one: Know your goals

Before you jump into desktop virtualization, consider your end game. Why do you need desktop virtualization technology in the first place?

Desktop virtualization is more than just VDI, although VDI is the sexier topic today.

In reality, the desktop virtualization space consists of many different aspects, including application virtualization, Remote Desktop Services, client hypervisors, OS streaming, Desktop as a Service (DaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and user virtualization -- not to mention virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) itself. Plus, you probably use some form of desktop virtualization on your physical desktops today.

More on desktop virtualization tools

Where should you start?

Staring at the list of desktop virtualization tools and options can be overwhelming when trying to decide which technology is right for you. You've got marketing jargon coming at you from all directions, touting how much money one desktop virtualization tool can save, or how much easier your job would be with another product. Many organizations do some of these things "just because," and they're left with a bad taste in their mouth when it doesn't work.

The best way to choose the right tool is to know exactly why you're looking into desktop virtualization technology in the first place. Going with the flow is great on vacation, but if you do it with enterprise IT, you'll be deploying a hybrid cloud SaaS solution that runs entirely on grain alcohol and love before you realize you went too far.

To help you decide whether you need desktop virtualization technology, I stole this list from Shawn Bass (who is totally cool with it). Here are potential objectives of desktop virtualization:

  • Faster provisioning
  • Reduce cost to manage apps
  • Support hot-desking
  • Stretch lifecycle
  • Rapid desktop disaster recovery
  • Shorten down time
  • Effectively manage branch infrastructure
  • Support work-from-home initiatives
  • Manage disconnected endpoints
  • Become hardware-agnostic
  • Allow users to repair themselves
  • Enable rapid on-boarding (M&A)
  • Support operating system migrations
  • Support heavyweight GPU/CPU apps

Selecting the goals that pertain to you can help you figure out which desktop virtualization tools and options you should consider. There's no fancy formula that says if you choose a certain two, then you need VDI; or these three you can do with application virtualization and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services. This list is meant to help you identify what your specific objectives are, so you know what you're getting into and why. Then you can ask all the right questions about the desktop virtualization tools that are put on your plate.

This list might also highlight some things that you wouldn't have normally considered. For instance, if you only need to support heavyweight GPU/CPU apps, you may want to try something like Hewlett-Packard's Remote Graphics Software, rather than one of the more traditional desktop virtualization tools.

You may even end up with different desktop virtualization tools for different pockets of your organization, which is OK. The fact that you've identified which desktop virtualization technologies work in which areas is crucial. Otherwise, you might end up trying to find a single tool that solves all your problems, only to find out nothing fits perfectly and get turned off to desktop virtualization altogether.

Gabe Knuth
is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as "the other guy" at He has been in the application delivery space for over 12 years and has seen the industry evolve from the one-trick pony of terminal services to the application and desktop virtualization of today. Gabe's focus tends to lean more toward practical, real-world technology in the industry, essentially boiling off the hype and reducing solutions to their usefulness in today's corporate environments.

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I think that you’ve hit the nail on the head. IT departments need to move faster to address changing business needs and technology landscapes. It’s been my experience that they sometimes get caught up in the hype (hey, it’s cloud, right? We NEED cloud) and commit to a particular stack without really knowing exactly what the business needs are or what the goal is. On the other hand, you don’t always have the luxury of gathering all the information to make a truly informed decision. But, knowing your goals first, even if they are still somewhat vague, can help you move forward by eliminating those solutions that don’t meet currently known needs.