Virtualized Desktops: A Real MSP Opportunity?

Consider the following scenario: In order to improve desktop reliability and reduce the total cost of PC ownership, you virtualize your customers' desktop environments in a cloud. Can managed service providers deliver that type of solution today? Companies like Canonical, ICC Global Hosting, IBM and Virtual Bridges such seem to think so.

At CompTIA Breakaway 2009 in Las Vegas, ICC Global Hosting has unveiled a virtual desktop hosting partnership progream. According to a press release from the company:

"...the ICC Partner Program empowers partners with a hosted desktop solution which can generate immediate margin and a recurring revenue stream without any capital investment or ongoing expense.  Customers benefit from outsourcing the hosting of virtual desktops, gaining all the benefits of virtual desktops without a CAPEX investment, and while relying on their trusted IT consultant, VAR, or integrator to provide the proven solution."
Plenty of technology companies share in the virtualized desktop vision. For instance, IBM is working with Canonical (promoter of Ubuntu Linux) and Virtual Bridges to offer virtualized Ubuntu desktops on Linux servers. The IBM strategy openly attacks Microsoft's fat client model, and aims to charge customers $50 per seat (per year, I believe,  though I need to double check).

Already, Midas Networks -- an MSP in Austin, Texas -- is testing the IBM-Canonical-Virtual Bridges solutions. And during a phone discussion last week, Virtual Bridges President and CEO Jim Curtin told me the solution is winning business head-on against alternatives like VMware.

Challenges Remain

Still, I'm not suggesting that the virtualized desktop model is perfect.

In some regions, customers may lack adaquate bandwidth for virtualized desktops. Other customers may have corporate compliance issues that force them to keep their desktop applications in-house. Still others may prefer "local" applications for road warriors who often need to work offline.

No doubt, progress will continue on the virtualized desktop front. For instance, many software providers are developing or have delivered applications that can run (A) in the cloud and (B) offline locally, for when a computer lacks a network connection.

I'm meeting ICC Global Hosting at CompTIA Breakaway and will share more info. In the meantime, if you have questions for them and other virtualized desktop specialists please let me know.

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