Desktop virtualisation: why it's still relevant
Is desktop virtualisation playing a part in the digital transformation of businesses?
Ian Jansen van Rensburg, senior manager, VMware: In many ways, this question is like asking if Windows 365 is promoting cloud computing. It's a component of the digital world, and it's a component of the service being offered through a porthole.
I look at desktop virtualisation as a solution that would still run traditional applications centrally from a datacentre. They are types of applications you would usually not be able to run on a mobile devices. We see more companies moving toward a web-type porthole, like Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store, where they can access any kind of application.
Desktop virtualisation is a component of this trend, but it's not the entire solution for the end-computing space.
Brendan McAravey, country manager, Citrix South Africa: When we talk about digital transformation, in a sense we are talking about taking traditional applications and making them available in cloud and mobile. But this is incredibly hard because many times you don't have the staff and budget to rewrite these applications. This is where desktop virtualisation can come in. These applications can delivered centrally, making a lot of the Windows applications that have developed over the years available as services very quickly. Desktop virtualisation is an element of digital transformation. You can't really transform your business without digital virtualisation.
Nick Black, business manager: end user computing, VMware: From what I've seen, companies are demanding faster deployments of applications.
We see more companies moving toward a web type storefront, like Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store, where they can access any kind of application.Ian Jansen van Rensburg, VMware
They want to deploy applications securely, quickly and with agility to a user in the right context. The context being, it is on a mobile device? Is it on a Mac or a PC or an iPad? Is it on a secure or unsecure network? It comes down to what is the best way to deliver that service. That may be desktop virtualisation, but it's probably unlikely. It's more likely that the application or the container around the application could be the best way to deliver that as a service. Desktop virtualisation, for me, is actually waning and is being replaced by managing a user rather than a device or the way the application is delivered.
Brendan McAravey, Citrix: I think, as an industry, we are quite sloppy. So when you say desktop virtualisation, some people will see it as delivery of a VDI desktop. We see it as a hosted shared desktop with a service Operating System. When we talk about desktop virtualisation, we are talking about the concept of delivering applications or full-blown desktops.
Are PCs and other devices now little more than dumb terminals, or is it more nuanced than that?
Nick Black, VMware: What's different is that the device I'm accessing the applications on is now mine. It contains my photos, movies and music. The intelligence of a mobile device is a personalised one. And if I wanted to get corporate content on it, then you're right, this becomes an access device. I would be able to get the same experience on your device using an encrypted log-on.
The key thing here is managing this device to make sure it's secure. This means being able to wipe the device of corporate content.
To answer your question, it's a combination of both. It's not dumb in terms of the personal stuff, but it's dumb in terms of corporate control.
Brendan McAravey, Citrix: We are getting quite good at detecting if you have a high-powered tablet. This is important because unified communications is a big part of the desktop virtualisation solutions today.
Desktop virtualisation is an element of digital transformation. You can't really transform your business without digital virtualisation.Brendan McAravey, Citrix South Africa
Because the devices are so powerful, a lot of the solutions offload part of the 'compute' to the device. This means we are not going back to dumb terminals; the cloud is very important, but the software is smart enough to figure out what you got when it comes to optimising the end-user experience.
How has desktop virtualisation affected the IT department's status in organisations?
Nick Black, VMware: There has been a debate over deploying virtual desktops versus PCs. This is what we have been fighting over for 20 to 25 years. An insurance company, for instance, will buy a PC for R9 000 versus a call centre buying a Thin Client for the same price. The call centre, however, will also have to invest in a centralised infrastructure, buy licences from the vendors and set aside a budget for operational expenditure.
In my view, this is why it has failed in a lot of emerging countries. The technology is great. It's fit for purpose, but the cost associated with it is significant. This is why it has not been as successful.
Anthony Rodrigues, pre-sales/professional services, Westcon: Just to add onto what he said, because of enterprise mobility solutions, the user has greater mobility. If they can't work in the office, they have the freedom to work at home.
Where are we now when it comes to the maturity of desktop virtualisation?
Nick Black, VMware: I think the technology is very mature. Where are floundering a little bit in that there are every specific user cases where they are relevant, but there are also cases where they are irrelevant. If you look at call centre operations, there is a strong case, but the cost and capacity of bandwidth undermines the case for business mobility.
Brendan McAravey, Citrix: It might be mature, but this works in its favour. Many of the banks are concerned about security and they want to get control again because every device can be attacked.
Desktop virtualisation allows them to send security patches and gradually put in place policies to make them more secure. They want a mainframe without the dumb terminals.
Sacha Matulovich, sales and marketing director, Connection Telecom: A lot of what we have been talking about here is in the enterprise space. We're more interested in what's the meaning for small business and medium-sized enterprises.
Consumers and small business are sometimes similar, in that they sometimes jump straight to what they can get into their hands. The cloud, for instance, has made a huge difference. It has enabled them to run their businesses on applications they would not have been able to afford or implement. To them, this is normal.
How are other technologies like data analytics and big data impacting desktop virtualisation?
Brendan McAravey, Citrix: Once you start to centralise everything through the datacentre, you are able to harness the flow of data into some sort of analytics engine.
This engine can detect if activity on the user's device is out of the ordinary, and if something is, it can start restricting the user's privileges and set off alarms.
Desktop virtualisation, for me, is actually waning and being replaced by managing a user rather than a device or the way the application is delivered.Nick Black, VMware
Anthony Rodrigues, Westcon: At the end of the day, these are input/output devices. They are clever devices, but they are not more clever than the software.
VDI: Virtual desktop infrastructure is technology that hosts a desktop inside a virtual machine that 'lives' on a server in a datacentre
Hosted Shared Desktop: The desktop is actually being shared by every user on the server
Dumb Terminal: A device that consists of a keyboard and a monitor, but can only do a limited number of operations by itself
Unified Communications: It's a way of merging a range of communications from different mediums into a single platform
Thin Client: It's a lightweight computer built to connect to a server, which does most of the work from a remote location