Virtual Desktop Gets Boost from Mobile Devices, Healthcare
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) over the years has been frequently documented in articles (and I’m as guilty as anyone) but less so in actual customer settings. The technology tried to follow behind server virtualization, but hasn’t seen quite the same uptake. The ROI just hasn’t been sufficient to move businesses to the client side of virtualization, despite promises of easier IT management and improved security via centralization.
Accordingly, MSPs with virtualization practices have seen more action in servers. But that situation is changing. Solutions built around products such as VMware View (NYSE:VMW) and Citrix XenDesktop (NASDAQ:CTXS) are now in the frame. Here’s why: The spread of mobile devices in the workplace has renewed interest in VDI as IT departments look for technologies that can help manage and secure tablets and smartphones. The original VDI vision called for thin client PCs, but mobile devices are the machines capturing user imaginations these days.
Another push comes from the healthcare vertical, which is exploring the technology. Clinicians equipped with tablets and requesting access to core applications provide a VDI use case. Government agencies, among the earlier adopters of VDI, continue to pursue the technology. The Government Printing Office, Navy and Orlando, Fla. are among the government entities in some stage of a VDI rollout.
As those demand drivers fall into place, the ROI picture has become somewhat brighter. Various vendor offerings now aim to reduce infrastructure costs that have stymied VDI deployments in the past. Atlantis Computing, for example, provides storage optimization technology for virtual desktops. Storage tends to be a key sticking point in VDI. Images and data end up stored centrally, a situation that can drum up storage expenses as organizations build out infrastructure to meet the performance demands of virtual desktops.
Nutanix, meanwhile, offers a compute/storage appliance that the company says eliminates the need for a storage area network (SAN) to support virtualization. Last month, Nutanix reported enthusiastic government uptake of its “SAN-less” platform.
Both Nutanix and Atlantis run partner programs and team with companies with MSP operations.
The upshot for MSPs? Companies that stayed with VDI now have reason to expand their marketing efforts. And those that have focused mainly on server virtualization should probably consider what Citrix and VMware have available on the VDI side.
MSPs might check out other vendor partnering options as well. Virtual Computer, for instance, markets a client-hosted VDI solution that MSPs can manage centrally. The company takes a bare-metal, client hypervisor approach to avoid back-end server costs. MokaFive, which also offers bare-metal virtualization technology, works with MSPs as well. Members of the company’s partner network can tap the MokaFive Suite Service Provider Edition, which lets MSPs offer desktop management via the cloud.
Despite VDI’s improving prospects, it still may not be something MSP customers are asking for my name. But VDI skills and solutions may come in handy for MSPs who need to address healthcare clients with iPad-carrying clinicians, government agencies with telework projects, or a host of other mobility-related scenarios.