Desktop Virtualisation Forum

This morning I attended the Desktop Virtualisation Forum in London, billed as “how to reduce costs, increase flexibility, and improve security through virtualisation” organised by Outsourced Events and the BroadGroup. Platinum sponsors were Citrix and WYSE, with AppSense, ThinPrint, Pillar Data Systems also laying out their stall.

There was a good attendance for a Monday morning which consisted of four plenary sessions. The afternoon was divided into two breakouts but unfortunately I was unable to attend those.

Marion Howard Healy as the chair introduced the speakers and started us off with a couple of statistics: there is a 24% penetration of desktop virtualisation in the market (from which I take it that 24% of companies have some desktop virtualisation) and 59% of companies say that lack of experience is a barrier to adoption.

Patrick Irwin of Citrix gave the keynote, “Making sense of desktop virtualisation”. He started with an Albert Einstein quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” as a segway into the traditional way of deploying desktops, an 8 step loop. His definition of the desktop as three components: OS + Apps + profile which could be decoupled using virtualisation and delivered to the user as a service is a good model but for me is missing one vital component which is data.

He explained that desktop virtualisation is not VDI but that VDI was one of the Virtual Desktop delivery options which formed a range of solutions from server side compute e.g. hosted shared desktops to client side compute e.g. a local VM based desktop built on a type 1 hypervisor.

The benefits of desktop virtualisation are agility, productivity and cost although, unlike server virtualisation it is initially cost neutral.

This excellent introduction was followed by David Angwin of WYSE, “A solution for all? The promise and reality of desktop virtualisation”. He reminded us that we still had to tackle the challenges of managing a desktop introducing the idea of an ideal client and how the promise of such a device differed from the reality. The promise comprised a direction towards the cloud delivering cost benefits in opex, capex and energy as well as business benefits in terms of security, compliance and manageability.

The reality is that (according to Gartner) the TCO of a PC is $117/month versus a PC + VDI solution of $135/month (all the expensive back end infrastructure I guess). Savings start with a Thin Client (TC) and VDI at $72/month and extend with TC + WTS ($42/month) and TC + XA ($38/month). (‘Fraid I didn’t catch the last two acronyms).

He introduced the term “Zero Client” (coined by WYSE), a device which does one thing: connects to some virtual infrastructure. It has no O/S and no disk (so is inherently secure). A thin client by contrast has a local embedded O/S.

One example I found particularly interesting was that of Hilton Hotels who have used zero clients (I believe) along with specialist software¬† to do away with traditional call centres and tap a rich vein of home workers from a totally different demographic to give them a “virtual call centre”.

His take-aways were to break the relationship with the tin, look at the server as well as the client, fund with refresh and identify IT pioneers.

Again data was not sufficiently addressed for me, or in the remaining talks.

The final point, of identifying IT pioneers was echoed by other speakers, particularly Simon Bullers from RedPixie. However I think you could fall into a trap here…To ultimately be successful a virtualisation project has to deliver 100%. Every single desktop in your organisation which does not follow your virtual design pattern takes away from the benefit. If you only manage to get 80% of your desktops virtualised then the remaining 20% are going to weigh you down sufficiently to negate many of the benefits. The people you need to start with are not the early IT adopters but the IT sceptics. You need to convince your “problem users” first, not last. Address all their niggles, or at least offer them tangible benfits to convince them to adopt and you have cleared your biggest hurdle. In that case you have a much better chance of reaching 100%.

Tomorrow, I hope I will cover the remaining two talks: Roy Illsley from Ovum “Market Trends: Is 2010 the tipping point for Desktop Virtualisation?” and Simon Bullers from RedPixie on “Implementing best practice for desktop virtualisation”.