Everything A CIO Needs To Know About Desktop Virtualization

by drjim on December 8, 2010

Can CIOs Virtualize Desktops That Look Like This?

Can CIOs Virtualize Desktops That Look Like This?

Darn that 80/20 rule. CIOs realize that they are spending way too much money just keeping the IT systems that they’ve already deployed up and running. If only this task didn’t cost so much: then they could spend that money on bold new initiatives that would benefit the entire company. One of the most expensive parts of any company’s IT infrastructure is all of those desktop systems that every employee is using. Hmm, maybe there’s something that we can do about those…

Welcome To The World Of Desktop Virtualization

Sure, by now every CIO is familiar with the idea of virtualizing servers. That’s where you use some fancy software to allow multiple “instances” of software to run on a single CPU. Within each of these instances you can run one or more applications and each application will believe that its running on its own dedicated server. In the end, this allows you to better utilize your underlying physical servers.

When it comes to virtualizing the desktops that are used within your company, pretty much the same concepts come into play. Matthew Sarrel has been looking into desktop virtualization and he has discovered that although there are a lot of advantages to doing it, there are also some downsides.

Can We Talk About Cost Savings?

When you virtualize a user’s desk top, what you are really doing is allowing their desktop operating system and their enterprise applications to run on a virtual machine that is located somewhere in the company’s data center. What this means for the user is that they can get away with using a so-called “thin client” – it no longer matters what type of computer they are physically using (PC / Apple / Linux) since the heavy lifting is being done in the data center.

By implementing such a system, the CIO is able to separate the software that your users are using from the hardware that they are running it on. This can greatly reduce your IT costs.

It is currently estimated that on average a single user’s desktop costs the company between $3,000 to $6,000 to manage and maintain each year. Hold on a moment: if you’re starting to picture $6,000 / user showing up in your budget if you virtualize everyone’s desktop, you’re wrong. Half of this cost comes out of the IT budget but the other half comes from the lost user productivity that physical desktop system maintenance causes.

Implementing virutalized desktops will reduce the costs of management updates and other IT tasks. The best guess right now is that moving to virtual desktops can reduce your total cost of ownership (TCO) for your desktops by 15% – 35%.

The Downside To Desktop Virtualization

As with all things in IT, there are no silver bullets. The same is true when it comes to desktop virtualization – it does have its drawbacks.

The first challenge is that by virtualizing desktops you can slow down the end user’s experience. Since the applications that they are running are no longer local on their computer, all of the data transfer delays and remote storage loading issues can combine to significantly slow down how they interact with their applications.

In order to prevent (or at least minimize) the amount of delay that you end up introducing into everyone’s life, you are going to have to spend some big bucks to upgrade your enterprise networks. This will include boosting storage to support all of those desktop operating system / application images, upgrading the link between your storage area network (SAN) and the servers that use the data, as well as potentially upgrading the data pipe that comes into your data center.

What All Of This Means For You

Desktop virtualization is the next great frontier that CIOs will have to cross. The advantages are great: cost savings and less effort. However, there is a downside to using this technology.

Switching to virtual desktops poses the risk of introducing delay in how each user interacts with their applications. In order to minimize this, CIOs are going to have to spend to upgrade the corporate IT infrastructure.

Desktop virtualization is something that every CIO needs to keep an eye on. The time may not be right now to move in this direction right now, but the time is coming and you’ll want to be ready to make the leap when the time is right.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that slowing down user’s desktops would be worth the cost savings of desktop virtualization?

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