The Short Life Expectancy of the Virtualized Desktop

RE: Current technology for desktop virtualization -- you're doing it wrong.

Current virtualized desktop solutions have the life expectancy of a fruit fly. Even in computer terms that is very, very short. So short, in fact, that you may want to bypass it completely. So, Mr. Virtualization Guy, what’s your brilliant long-term solution for the Desktop dilemma? Web-based, vendor neutral desktop interfaces—sometimes known as webtops or net tops. There, I said it and somehow I know the hairs on the back of your neck are standing at attention and you’re getting ready to flame me. Allow me to pre-defend myself.

Current technology is slow, heavy, and only maybe a little cheaper than standard local desktop operating systems. I think that these heavy desktop virtual machine solutions are generally no better than a standard desktop operating system running on that humming hulk under your desk. How can I say that when I seem to be such a proponent of VDI (Virtualized Desktop Infrastructure)?

I’m a proponent of VDI but common sense tells me that it is not a long-term solution to the expense of desktop support, software licensing costs, patching, backups and so on. VDI is a transitional solution and you’re not getting rid of those issues; you’re just moving them to the data center and from desktop support folks to server administrators. I have been in the IT business long enough to know that people (companies) resist change and when they do change, it is at a very slow pace. Most changes take place in baby steps. VDI is one of those baby steps. It is the transition from traditional desktops to go anywhere web-based desktops.

We’ve spent years web-enabling our applications, creating virtualized server infrastructures, and developing Web 2.0 technology—to what end? Are you going to tell me that we’re going to continue to use 2GB, 3GB (or larger) heavy desktop operating systems and continually boost our LAN and WAN network bandwidth just so we can run those heavy desktops to use our web applications? Really?

A web-based desktop is a brilliant, scalable, inexpensive solution to a very difficult problem: What to do with the desktop. Put your desktop on the web, let your users choose which interface look and feel they want to use (no more religious wars between Mac, Windows, or Linux zealots), use online applications like Google Docs, Zoho, or even stream your own purchased ones for the users that want them.

Most users don’t care which operating system they use and many of them don’t know what they’re using anyway. What they really want is applications and more than 90% of all users use; a word processor, a spreadsheet, a web browser, and email. Why not remove the OS question completely by just using a browser for everything—even the Desktop itself? How much bandwidth would you need if all your users only used a web browser—for everything?

To see what I’m talking about, I’ve provided some links to hosted desktop sites below so that you can check them out for yourself. There are others but these are the best of breed in this space. Try them out and let me know what you think.

StoneWare WebOS
Global Hosted Operating System

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