Client virtualization, blade PCs gain popularity

Server-based computing is still the most popular alternative PC technology

Client virtualization and blade PCs are gaining popularity, especially at the largest enterprises, but is still the most popular alternative PC technology, a new Forrester Research report finds. About 18 per cent of companies have implemented PC virtualization software, and another 8 per cent plan to do so in the next year, the survey of 565 PC decision-makers in North America and Europe finds. Blade PC adoption is at 16 per cent and server-based computing stands tall at 32 per cent, Forrester reports.

Enterprises with at least 20,000 employees are the most likely to adopt these alternative PC technologies. "Large enterprises are in the most pain when it comes to managing and securing the PC environment -- from both internal and external workers -- and are therefore more willing to be early adopters in emerging technologies," Forrester analyst Natalie Lambert writes in "Virtualization On The Client . . . Finally!"

Cost and security are the two biggest factors driving enterprises to alternative PC models, the survey finds. The other major factors are ease of management, including patching; the ability to provide flexible remote access; and reduced electrical costs.

In a blade PC system, the PC hardware, software and data are housed in the enterprise's data center, while users access their PCs remotely using a thin client or other client device.

PC virtualization software has several meanings, according to Forrester, but in its most common usage it lets enterprises run virtual desktop instances, with operating system, applications and data, on top of an installed host operating system. PC virtualization also can refer to the ability to run virtual desktop instances on a server inside the data center. One of four enterprises are interested in deploying PC virtualization software (not including those that have deployed it already or plan to do so) while 17 per cent are interested in deploying blade PCs.

Still, current deployments of PC alternatives are low because organizations are trying to sift through a complex range of offerings and figure out the best fit for each user base, Lambert writes. "Today's corporate computing environment is still too complex and difficult to maintain. Vendors like Altiris (acquired by Symantec) and LANDesk tried to solve the problem with a variety of tools to help you keep all the distributed PC ducks in a row, while Citrix Systems and Wyse Technology offered a path to centralization and uniformity through server-based computing," Lambert writes. "In the end, neither was the perfect fit for every user scenario. Now VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft are creating alternative solutions built with the same virtualization technology that is redefining the server environment, but with a very different design point."

An enterprise may need to deploy a mix of technologies because each type of virtualization is designed to solve a specific problem, Forrester states. Before choosing a technology for each set of users, IT managers should decide whether the users should always have Internet access, whether they need a personalized desktop, and what amount of computing resources they need.

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