The devilish details of desktop virtualization

Early adopters of virtual desktop infrastructure report compelling benefits, significant hurdles, and a cloudy view into ROI

Companies are drawn to desktop virtualization for a variety reasons. Lifetime Products, a manufacturer of polyurethane tables, sheds, and basketball hoops, chose desktop virtualization for its inherent data protection aspects. Desktop virtualization ensures that all of Lifetime's product-design data and other intellectual property remain safely locked inside its datacenter in Utah, even though engineers scattered here and abroad work daily on new designs.

Last year, Natixis Capital Markets virtualized workstations for 30 employees (out of 400) to give them server-level reliability and horsepower. Natixis deploys virtual instances of desktops on servers inside its datacenter for its army of traders. "If some traders ran apps locally on their workstations, then they wouldn't be able to do anything else on them," says Drew Hiltz, CTO of Natixis in the United States.

Slow from the starting gate

Despite all the buzz around desktop virtualization, there are signs of tepid adoption. In a recent survey conducted by sister publication CIO, only one out of four respondents was using desktop virtualization; one in five said it would be a year to three years before they'd deploy the technology; and 37 percent said they weren't interested at all.

Why all the hand-wringing? The fact is, desktop virtualization has a few technical blind spots that it still needs to cover. Graphics and streaming video don't work well on a virtual desktop without significant (and costly) network upgrades. "If you have high-graphic apps, this is going to be a kludgy environment to work in," Wilson says.

Certain applications also don't run smoothly on a virtual desktop, while some software licensing even forbids their use. "There are vendors selling applications who still want to resist," says Hiltz. "Vendors play with licensing models to squeeze more dollars out of you. I can't run Bloomberg on a virtual desktop based on the language of the licensing, even though technically I could."

Both Hiltz and Wilson worry that virtual desktop users will drain datacenter resources. Part of the problem is that users feel resources are unlimited in the virtual desktop model. Another issue is that management tools are not yet up to par, in terms of controlling CPU and memory usage for every employee. "I'd like to be able to throttle a user down," says Wilson. "While vendors say they have this ability, that's not really true yet."

Desktop virtualization adopters say these concerns aren't even the toughest hurdles when deploying the technology. They point to the need for massive infrastructure upgrades that wreak havoc on ROI, resistance from managers who are wary of hitching workers' productivity to a live Internet connection, and pushback from end-users who don't want to lose control of their workspaces.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags virtualisation

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Kaneshige

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?