Desktop Virtualization Meets Managed Services

I asked several managed service providers yesterday whether their customers were interested in Macs and Linux as secure, easy-to-manage alternatives to Windows PCs. The answer was a resounding "no." Instead, the MSPs said, many of their customers are willing to virtualize their desktops, shifting most applications up to a server.

The discussion points, which surprised me a bit, occurred during the Ingram Micro Seismic partner conference in Chicago. Here are more details.

There are several approaches to desktop virtualization. One basic approach involves running desktop virtualization software (such as Parallels or VMware) to let users easily hop between desktop operating systems (Mac OS, Linux and Windows) and applications. Simple enough.

But the conversation in Chicago focused on a different approach. In a typical scenario, MSPs said, the user logs into any desktop (at work or from home) and "retrieves" their desktop settings and application images from a secure server. This approach is particularly popular in health care and legal verticals, where customers want their data centralized and secured.

On the one hand, the info above is pretty basic. But I'm intrigued that MSPs are having more success pushing virtualized desktop approaches rather than basic efforts like running Mac OS X or Linux.

One MSP noted that a Midwest solutions provider had tried to offer Linux servers and desktops as part of an overall HaaS (hardware as a service) strategy -- but the effort failed miserably because small businesses are so Microsoft-centric in their thought process.

Still, I remain convinced that Linux and Mac OS X will gradually become more significant to managed service providers.

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