Easing the juggling act with client virtualization

In IT's never-ending search for efficiency improvements, client virtualization and its subsets -- presentation, application and desktop virtualization -- must be considered.

Client virtualization reduces IT management costs by centralizing applications in a data center, enabling employees to use them from their desks or while on the road. Typically more efficient and secure than applications housed on end-user devices, client virtualization also enables greater flexibility for workers. Implementation can be complex, however, so a well thought-out plan is a must.

In January, CDW released the Client Virtualization Straw Poll which found that 90% of businesses are considering or implementing at least one form of client virtualization. Despite the initial complexities of implementation, the payoffs are worth the effort and can lead to reduced costs, improved security and an enhanced ability to deploy new applications to users quickly and efficiently. The report also found the following:

➢ Respondents believe that client virtualization will lower costs, with 62% percent saying they think client virtualization will improve their organization's bottom line.

➢ Of the respondents who have implemented client virtualization and track return on investment (ROI), many are saving more than 20% of their total IT budget.

➢ Of those considering or implementing client virtualization, 97% noted that they experienced challenges during implementation, with their top obstacles being training end-users, ensuring the technology works on an individual level and estimating ROI.

TECH DEBATE: Desktop virtualization: niche solution, or new desktop standard?

With 59% of businesses reporting that client virtualization goals are equally or more important than server virtualization goals, the report shows the rise of client virtualization and points to a need for increased up-front analysis, education and testing to enable businesses to take full advantage of the technology -- as well as a need to ease the challenges associated with implementation.

One of the challenges of client virtualization is understanding the full scope of the solution. Understanding the different types of client virtualization can aid this challenge and lead to a more successful deployment. Client virtualization is classified into three primary subsets:

➢ Presentation virtualization: A Web-based portal provides users (usually remote workers) access to the organization's network and specific applications. Of the people surveyed, 61% of those implementing/maintaining presentation virtualization are measuring ROI and have realized an average savings of 24% of their annual IT budget.

➢ Application virtualization: Applications are packaged into single executables that run completely isolated from each other and the operating system for conflict-free execution on end-point devices. For example, application virtualization allows you to seamlessly transfer from a PC to a mobile device by virtualizing and, therefore, neutralizing incompatible applications. Of the respondents surveyed by CDW, 60% of those implementing or maintaining application virtualization are measuring ROI, and have realized an average savings of 24% of their annual IT budget.

➢ Desktop virtualization: Brings the desktop operating system and applications into the data center, allowing all of the processing power to be hosted in the data center. With nothing more than an Internet connection, users have access to the business' applications. Of the respondents surveyed by CDW, 76% of those implementing or maintaining desktop virtualization are measuring ROI and have realized an average savings of 21% of their annual IT budget.

Client virtualization can have a significant impact on an organization's efficiency and bottom line, but it does come with challenges. Before implementing any form of client virtualization, consider the following:

➢ Establish goals: Work with the business units to identify measurable goals for implementation and secure management support. Client virtualization is generally not a "one size fits all" solution.

➢ Research, research, research: Review technology options, solicit advice from organizations that recently implemented client virtualization and conduct an assessment of your IT department's skills and knowledge. You may also consider engaging professional services consulting resources who can help to translate the different options to meet the varying needs of each business unit.

➢ Prep, test and prepare: Engage business users in the testing stage. Keep your end users up-to-date on changes and test each step of the implementation process. Develop a training curriculum to be delivered in conjunction with the implementation phases. Be sure to manage user expectations and promote both end-user and organizational benefits of client virtualization.

➢ Measure the savings: Measure savings in terms of measurable business outcomes, such as power savings, more efficient software distribution and reduced helpdesk support time. Also, look for intangible savings, such as faster system upgrades and greater control over security. Finally, promote your successes by converting each to hard dollar savings.

For organizations looking for relief from the challenges of the daily balancing act, client virtualization is a valuable solution to consider. Not only can it help an organization regain its balance, but it can increase efficiency and cut costs, results every organization strives for.

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