Companies choose VDI to fit existing infrastructure, analyst says

Enterprises are choosing desktop virtualization offerings from Symantec Corp., VMware Inc., Citrix Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp. according to the vendor’s area of strength — and how it fits with the infrastructure they already have, according to one Canadian analyst.

“With Citrix, their strength has been in applications delivery with Presentation Server for years, so larger enterprises that have large thin client and Citrix-type deployments that are looking to expand to maybe more of a desktop replacement … they are going with Citrix,” said John Sloan, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group.

VMware works for those who have done a lot of server virtualization and are used to using the VMware hypervisor and management for servers, Sloan continued. “I’ve seen a number of IT departments, now that they’re trying to pile a VDI-type approach, are going to go with VMware because that’s where their strength is,” he said.

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“What they’re doing is sort of leveraging the fact that they have a suite of products for managing your end points, for managing your desktops centrally and they’re now rolling in these various virtualization-based and streaming-based products so they’re an adjunct or add-on to their client-management suite,” said Sloan.

The endpoint environment is complex for a reason, said Brad Rowland, director of marketing for endpoint virtualization at Symantec. “Companies need different choices and IT in order to build productive, competitive companies, so we don’t want to eliminate that. We want to add flexibility to allow people to use the right infrastructure,” he said.

The portfolio has four specific product areas – virtual distribution, virtual execution, virtual workspace and the new virtual user profile area, which will be available for beta the first week of March – Rowland said.

“What our portfolio is doing is saying to the IT manager, ‘Use whatever underlying infrastructure you need, whether it’s laptops or virtual hosted desktops or traditional PCs.’ Whatever the underlying infrastructure is, the company should have the flexibility to implement this, but the top layer that makes all the users productive should be a consistent management layer that focuses on the user rather than the device,” said Rowland.

Symantec, Citrix, Microsoft and VMware are all basically talking about moving to a place where IT is not invested in the PC management business anymore, noted Sloan.

While there is a lot of potential for reduction in deskside support costs and better management of application delivery, it’s important to have the ability to manage virtualization and application delivery in a variety of ways, said Sloan.

“You want to orchestrate them. This is where streaming applications to a desktop, for example, has a role,” he said.

On-demand application streaming could be a very strong feature in the Symantec Endpoint Virtualization Suite, as Altiris had six years of experience in this area before being acquired by Symantec, noted Sloan.

According to Symantec, the upcoming suite provides a comprehensive solution by offering portable, on-demand user workspace management in traditional, virtual and mixed client computing models.

Hosted desktops that move the desktop experience into the data centre and display back on the user’s device provide value in centralized management and higher level security, but they aren’t a good model for users who need disconnected access (when flying on a plane, for example) or a combination of workspaces, explained Rowland.

Symantec also emphasizes the suite’s hypervisor-, operating system- and hardware platform-agnostic standards.

“In some areas, it doesn’t make sense to standardize,” said Rowland. “You might want laptops from multiple vendors, you may have different versions of Windows running in your environment. You finally get standardized and then your company does an acquisition and you end up with a bunch of non-standard equipment. So to some degree, we want to say that part of the infrastructure should just be plug-and-play.”

One specific feature – Dependent Layers – addresses a common problem enterprises face when running old applications tied to old application dependencies, noted Rowland. “Wherever there’s a dependency, we allow those applications to work together without bumping into all the other versions,” he said.

For example, you may need the latest version of Java for one application and an older version of Java for a different application. “What we can do is keep as many different Java versions as you need on your machine and directly link them to the application that needs them,” he said.

“It’s not a gigantic IT problem,” Rowland continued, “but it’s one of those things that causes unnecessary support calls all day … it seems small, but when you add up the types of things IT managers have to support, it can take a big support burden off what they’re doing today.”

Symantec’s Endpoint Virtualization Suite is scheduled for worldwide release this April.

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