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Citrix Synergy Preview: The Evolution and Future of VDI

Posted by Jon Rolls, CTO of Desktop on May 23, 2013  /   Posted in Desktop Management, General  /  0 comments

The Evolution and Future of VDINext week AppSense is hosting a pre-conference technical seminar ahead of Citrix Synergy in Anaheim, CA. I am presenting a session on “The Evolution and Future of VDI”, and in this post I’m going to give a short preview of some of the material I plan to cover.

First, I’m a pedant when it comes to terminology, so I’ve always preferred to talk about “desktop virtualization” in its wider sense, rather than just VDI. And by “desktop virtualization” I mean every way there is of using virtualization to deliver the Windows application and desktop experience. That means I’m including session virtualization (aka Terminal Server or Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) or (kinda incorrectly) RDS) with or without the Citrix XenApp or Dell vWorkspace extensions, and also client-hosted virtual desktops (XenClient, VMware View Local Mode and MokaFive).

Desktop virtualization has evolved a long way from the early days of the OS/2-based Citrix Multiuser, and (before that) remote display systems on UNIX using the X11 protocol. I wrote a short history of remote display systems when I was at Quest Software, which you can read here. VDI might not have achieved the heights Gartner predicted for it back in 2009, but it continues to expand its reach.  I believe there are a number of industry trends which, on balance, will ensure desktop virtualization will continue to grow in all of its forms.

Five Key Industry Trends in VDI:

  1. Unmanaged endpoints. The plethora of new devices flooding our homes and workplaces, often with highbandwidth wireless internet access built-in, has changed what modern workers expect from IT. With a corporate logon, an intranet site and an email server, many workers can now become completely productive without further assistance, and on a wide range of devices. There are of course security concerns in this model, and so, remote display of desktops and applications in a device-independent way is highly appealing, and exactly what desktop virtualization delivers! There are many ways to solve the security challenge of BYOX, but desktop virtualization is probably the most foolproof, since the application (and data) never leave the datacenter.
  2. Sandboxing. I referred to sandboxing technologies in last week’s post on Resource-Level Security and Policy in the Real World. In many ways, desktop virtualization is the ultimate application sandbox since it takes the application off the device altogether, and puts it in a datacenter sandbox! Of course, it only works when the user has a high quality network connection, and is mostly restricted to Windows applications, but my point is that the increased awareness of application sandboxing as a security model is positive for desktop virtualization.
  3. New Wave of Native Apps. The rapid rise of web applications as the ultimate cross-platform delivery method was widely expected to be the death of native applications on both Windows and mobile, especially with technologies including HTML5, AJAX, CSS, JavaScript and more. However, in the last 2 years there has been a move back to native applications, at least on mobile, most notably from Facebook and LinkedIn. The same is not true for Windows applications – although many applications still need to be native (gaming, graphic design, multimedia creation, etc…) for performance reasons – the shift from native to Web continues, and this is obviously negative for the adoption of desktop virtualization.
  4. On-premise IT Solutions moving to the Cloud. Yes, fresh in from the pages of “Duh” magazine comes the news that stuff is moving to the cloud. Sarcasm aside, this is clearly a great trend for desktop virtualization, and one reason Microsoft is now strongly rumored to be bringing its own Desktops-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering to market in 2014.
  5. Consumer Trends Creeping into the Enterprise. More and more employees are bringing personal tablets, smartphones and Mac laptops into work because that’s what they like to use at home. And even if today’s IT department resists them, within 10 years a new generation of workers will expect the computing experiences they grew up with to be there in the workplace. It’s impossible to predict what this means for desktop virtualization, except that it will need to continue to evolve to support more devices, more input methods and new work styles.

SEE ALSO: Alive and Well: The Windows Desktop in the Post-PC Era

So, overall, the picture is good. Windows applications might not be around forever, but despite the rumors they aren’t going anywhere fast and the trends I listed mean that users have to find device-independent, secure ways to access them, and desktop virtualization remains the best solution.

If you’re going to Citrix Synergy, Register for “AppSense Live!” to learn more about how VDI is evolving and the future of workspace enablement in the enterprise.

About Jon Rolls, CTO of Desktop

CTO of Desktop Jon Rolls drives collaboration and strategy for User Virtualization across the AppSense global organization. Leveraging over 15 years of software industry and windows management experience, Jon has worked with several industry pioneers including Citrix, Quest Software and Dell. Jon often blogs about key industry observations, desktop management, IT consumerization and BYOD.

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