Will your next desktop, notebook or tablet be virtual?
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Will your next desktop, notebook or tablet be virtual?

Imagine a relatively inexpensive, light, thin-client device that accesses your data center from anywhere, takes on the image of a typical desktop, provides all the appropriate data and applications you need throughout the day, and then reverts instantly to the proverbial tabula rasa when shut down -- or when the power goes out. 

And, since no data is stored on the device, there is no risk of having proprietary data fall into the wrong hands if the device is lost or stolen. Is this a dream come true? According to Logicalis (http://www.us.logicalis.com), an international provider of integrated information and communications technology (ICT) solutions and services,the answer is yes, the virtual desktop interface (VDI) can be just that.

 “VDI is changing the way people are thinking about the desktop,” says Logicalis’ virtualization expert Bill Parker. “There will always be a need for conventional desktops, notebooks and even tablets for specific users, but VDI has matured to the point where it requires organizations to take a hard look at what it can provide … not just a cursory glance.”

He says there are five reasons why VDI will succeed:

° Hard cost savings.  Thin clients cost less, they last longer (six to seven years versus four years for a notebook) and they consume a fraction of the energy of a desktop computer (as low as 6-7 watts for thin clients vs. 150 watts for computers).

° Ease of management. Thin clients are easier to patch and upgrade, and they have slower generational changes than traditional computers, so you’re not swapping out newer versions all the time.

° Centralized back-ups.When using virtual desktops, everything is backed up centrally, which is easier on data center operations and eliminates local drive issues. This makes sense for tablets as well, since they are often shared among multiple users for specific functions, like presentations.

° Regulatory compliance. Since all the data and applications are centralized, VDI makes it easier to enable and enforce processes and procedures to ensure security, privacy and other best practices.

° Productivity gains.VDI encourages telecommuting or remote working, which contributes to higher productivity, better morale and lower office space expenses, while decreasing demands on help desks; if there are problems, it’s easier to troubleshoot standard images and integrate applications with standard hardware -- plus, end users need less training with standard images.
Logicalis is bullish on VDI, but warns that VDI isn’t for everyone, at least not yet, says Parker. I'm much more dubious. Thin client computing has been touted as the next big thing for years and hasn't taken off.

I think there are two main reasons why. One: for many of us, our desktops and laptops are where we organize our private and work lives to adapt to their personal needs. Most of us are going to want that info stored somewhere besides (or at least in addition to) "the cloud."

Two: Thin client hardware is not as good a value as traditional computers. Such hardware might be cheaper, but it also lacks the power, memory and storage capability of the personal computer as we know it.

Thin clients will be around, and iOS devices such as the iPad will flourish. But they'll be a complement to, not a replacement for, the computer.

-- Dennis Sellers


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