Windows 7- To Virtualize or not to Virtualize - that is the question!
ITIL & the Private Cloud

Windows 7- Virtual Desktops… the way to go (Part 2)

Imported from published August 29 2010

What Does Gartner have to say about this?


In the blog Windows 7- To Virtualize or not to Virtualize - that is the question! I talked about a golden opportunity for organizations to move to virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) instead of following a traditional desktop OS upgrade path.

As an update to this pressing concern for IT departments everywhere, Gartner has weighed in on the issue. observing (quote):


"Whether replacing or upgrading PCs, it is clear that Windows 7 migration will have a noticeable impact on organisations' IT budgets,"

"Based on an accelerated upgrade, we expect that the proportion of the budget spent on PCs will need to increase between 20 per cent as a best-case scenario and 60 per cent at worst in 2011 and 2012,"

"Assuming that PCs account for 15 per cent of a typical IT budget, this means that this percentage will increase to 18 per cent (best case) and 24 per cent (worst case), which could have a profound effect on IT spending and on funding for associated projects during both those years."


This clearly hits the nail on the head – a standard desktop OS refresh is going to make a serious dent on the ‘CIO purse’ if done following the traditional approaches that are prevalent. This is serious money that could be spent on projects that actually generate direct revenue for the firm!

What does this mean for Corporate IT ?

Essentially, Corporate IT will lock up significant resources in simply performing this upgrade. Those that delay will be well behind the curve (according to Gartner at least), although not being an early adopter has its own intrinsic advantage. The cost of upgrading hardware, either for performance or compatibility reasons, is predicted to be a significant cost.

This is not simple CAPEX, but the opportunity cost of not pursuing those projects/programmes that will directly influence the firm’s bottom profit line. An innovation cost if you will.

Organizations, in a move to innovate, are still employing traditional approaches to solving their desktop OS challenges and the corresponding application stack. However, the dynamics of our time almost mandate a complete rethink of the traditional ‘it’s time to refresh our desktop OS/desktop suites – let’s start a BIG project’ approach. This is a lost opportunity for a CIO to radically shake-up the IT structures/behavior built up over decades in-house.

Such a lock of resources, wholesale disruption of existing revenue generating projects and the outlay in performing the Windows 7 upgrade itself would suggest that ‘alternatives’ to the migration should be seriously examined.

I use Windows 7 extensively – and like it! On the other hand, I absolutely hate the upgrade process, and finding applications that work, new generations of software, and of course the now ‘mandatory’ hardware upgrade – although everyone always insists this is not necessaryWink. I did this for Windows 3.1x/ME/ XP / Vista 7 – well you can understand the desktop OS fatigue. Imagine what the Corporate-OS-Upgrade-Fatigue for thousands of users!

At a time where leanness has been emphasized; cost-saving/cost-avoiding projects having priority over innovative projects; a general focus on optimizing the IT infrastructure and the pairing down of IT personnel numbers would suggest another approach is needed than the current mass exodus from Windows XP to Windows 7.

Companies are not moving to Windows 7 simply due to a lack of support in the future for the platform, or the fact that Windows 7 is ‘shiny’ and attractive. There is an element of ‘anxiety’ in not being left behind. The group/herd instinct to follow the others. However, distinctness and variety are the drivers of sustained competitive advantage and long term relationship-focused revenue streams.

The CIO almost owes it to the organization to ‘think out of the box’, be a maverick, look for distinctiveness, not follow the 'herd' instinct prevalent in the organization and ensure IT is truly a partner to the organization to achieve organizational goals. This includes providing an excellent work environment for employees, and breaking the shackles of the desktop and the men-in-grey attitude still plaguing large organizations. Learn from the smaller guys. Be nimble, agile and creative!

So why is all this important for CIO’s and Organizations?

Innovations streams mandate a series of upgrades to reach that end-state that was originally desired. The main product to roll out should be the capability to have virtual desktops located within the virtual infrastructure that should already have been designed in a rock solid fashion. For exceptions requiring a mobile offline desktop, allow the virtual desktop to be delivered as an offline desktop (but still encapsulated using the virtualization technologies). This can be synchronized back with its online counterpart – replication technologies are really advanced these days. Communication technologies are also powerful and usually available in one form or another. At the very end of the chain, should be the absolute need to have a pure local traditional OS install on the user device. Essentially virtual desktop infrastructures provide an enterprise class functional container for desktop OS’s.

These are the same great features that are partially driving server virtualization – why not use them on the desktop! Applications should also clearly be virtualized to allow them to be independent of hardware and user profiles. They should be simple to upgrade and rollout – with the minimum number of images being used. Why have thousands of variants to support?

This opportunity should also be taken to do a complete cleanup of the existing environment. Windows XP left a lot of rubbish hanging around in registries, file systems, home profiles and questionable applications installed locally.

The new virtual desktop should be lean. There should be a complete decoupling of the OS and the user data/profile. The desktop should be really simple in future to upgrade. Applications should be containerized so that they can run on different OS versions. VMware ThinApp technologies support this notion very well, and Citrix/Microsoft also provide their own encapsulation technology (e.g. App-V).

Indeed the encapsulation technology providing the virtualization should also be independent of the desktop OS and provide complete freedom to choose – that should allow organizations to break out of the straight jacket of the traditional desktop OS vendors. The more desktop OS’s supported in the VDI solution, the better. Mainstream OS support should of course be available, but support for up and coming important variants such as the Ubuntu or Apple variants will allow an organization to rapidly re-engineer their IT to suit the needs of the organization – and negotiate tough discounts on the OSthe prime cost component currently in virtualization solutions.

It does not really matter that there is not a 100% match of VDI solutions to the functionality of local desktop OS installation – there will always be some odd hardware/software that does not quite work out. That is why innovation streams are important – use a hybrid approach with the mass of desktops in the virtual environment.

Over time as more functionality becomes available in VDI solutions (and there is already a 98%+ match), the sheer number of features regarding delivery efficiency and data security will mandate this as the principal solution to deploy a Windows X or whatever desktop OS is your favorite.

Choice and control coupled with efficiency. Doesn’t sound too bad! Welcome to the Private Cloud and Desktop-as-a-Service! Make the jump to VDI now and not lose this golden opportunity!


The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by EMC and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of EMC.


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