The Future of Desktop Virtualization

The days of the local desktop OS are numbered, it’s official. By 2014, Gartner predicts that there will be more than 66 million virtualised desktops globally. Hosted virtual desktop (HVD) growth is likely to be rapid during the next three to five years, with the analyst estimating that units will be equal to more than 40 per cent of the worldwide professional PC market – in revenue terms that’s around $65 billion by 2013.

As companies increasingly look for infrastructure efficiencies in the current depressed economic climate, these figures could be on the conservative side. Either way, this is a hugely popular shift in thinking challenging the old fat client, local OS model. So how far can this go and what are the reasons behind it?

When it comes to infrastructure and operations, Gartner also states that virtualization will be the most significant trend through the next four years. Virtualization has been particularly successful in the data centre over a relatively short time, and we are now seeing this approach being increasingly adopted on the client side through application virtualization and desktop virtualization.


The future of computing – the local desktop OS is dead

As virtualization is rolled out, the end-user device becomes less important – users simply want to have access to their hosted desktop / application anywhere. So the desktop or application is virtualised for use on: mobile devices (iPhone, Android); netbooks; and whatever increasingly miniaturized machines the future brings. The delivery of the desktop thus becomes an ASP model – delivering applications and desktops to anyone with an online connection. This model is not just being adopted by corporates, but even smaller/medium sized enterprises and resellers offering this service for customers.

The ‘No OS’ desktop is really the definition of an authentic server-based computing environment. In its simplest terms, the better the technology, the less you need locally. The future becomes less about people physically installing boxes, but more about offering a hosting service delivered to customers. This is then centrally maintained which is a much more flexible, secure and cost efficient model.

This service-led approach then evolves onto the next stage – companies don’t want the aggravation of maintaining a server room and the associated admin people – so we’ll see them move the server capacity to the cloud and migrate to a leased rental model. As such it falls under a SAAS (Software as a Service) system, or even a new acronym as it includes the delivery method, CAAS – ‘Cloud As A Service’.

Different companies will deliver their services to the cloud – and customers will pick and choose the services they require from the cloud. It will become as easy and ubiquitous as receiving e.g. television programs anywhere you choose. Companies that are going to succeed at this will offer flexibility – this is critical in a pay-per-app or desktop service.

We’ve already seen the start of this, with the emergence of e.g. the Amazon, Google and Microsoft cloud model. New ideas for cloud computing will follow in the coming years making access to applications and desktops even easier.

Thin clients, netbooks and minipc’s  – helping companies meet CO2 reduction targets

Virtualization and thiner client computing is not all about financial benefits. With the Climate Change Bill, Gordon Brown has committed the UK to legally binding targets: Greenhouse gas emission reductions of at least 80% by 2050, and reductions in CO2 emissions of at least 26% by 2020. One way for organisations to meet these aggressive targets is through optimising the efficiency of their IT systems.  Technologies like Thin Client Computing reduced carbon emissions in Western Europe by 166,000 tons in 2007, according to the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. The researchers found British businesses could save £78m in electricity bills and slash carbon emissions by 485,000 tonnes a year by switching from PCs to thin clients.

Virtual computing / Server-Based Computing, which uses such thin clients, is a well-known solution to rising IT costs, security issues and the increasing complexity of network management – plus its green credentials are impeccable. Thin clients can cut energy usage by more than 50% (including the server) and have a longer life span than regular PCs which means less waste or recycling. While PCs consume 85 watts on average, thin clients and their server only use 40 to 50 watts – this a significant factor in reducing emissions, especially when multiplied by millions.

And finally…

Traditionally the local desktop operating system has been the backbone for client and server computing, but new technologies, new modes of computing, and infrastructure virtualization and automation are changing the role of the OS. The local desktop OS is dead. Long live the virtual desktop OS.