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Virtual desktop infrastructure technology is gaining popularity fast: Of 430 respondents to our July 2010 InformationWeek Analytics Desktop Virtualization Survey, 77% are either actively using or testing VDI (42%) or assessing its benefits (35%). Most implementers do limit VDI usage based on category, with adoption ranging from 68% of corporate office workers down to a mere 3% of media production workers. That makes sense given VDI's current limitations in the areas of heavy graphical load and remote connectivity.
Intel is considering bucking that trend, however, evaluating VDI for a range of applications--including those requiring dedicated GPUs for higher-end graphics. "Intel has an 81% notebook to 19% desktop mix, so we are very mobile and place a high value on the productivity we gain from that mobility," says John Dunlop, enterprise architect with Intel's internal IT group. "This includes the ability to work offline and integrate graphics and multimedia-intensive collaboration tools that have historically been challenging to scale with VDI."
Dunlop recently completed a formal VDI evaluation and total cost of ownership analysis, including testing capabilities to support multimedia collaboration, unified communications, and training without an undue hit on shared LAN segments.
For our poll respondents, the impetus to explore VDI ranges from a way to finally get off the fat-client treadmill to a stopgap until workers' desktops morph into something else. A few see VDI as a plot by OS and application vendors to charge us double for licenses.Whatever their take, respondents react strongly to the technology.
The Cost Factor
"The up-front licensing costs, along with the perception that users still need PCs, and PCs dropping in price, pretty well nixed the concept," says the technical architecture manager for a large retailer. Adds another: "Frankly, with SaaS and other Web apps coming online, I look at desktop virtualization as a Band-Aid to the desktop management problem." And from a public sector IT director: "Microsoft is the biggest problem and cost with VDI. Why should I have to pay another fee?"
It's a good question, and one respondents are wrestling with. Sixty-two percent of those using, piloting, testing, or assessing VDI predict that application and/or OS software licensing will be either the same or more expensive than current fat-desktop pricing and terms. Few expect to save any money, a reality borne out by Dunlop's testing.
"Current implementations of VDI may increase TCO for primary device replacement scenarios," he says. "Large enterprises may not be able to recapture VDI investments--infrastructure, licenses--from improvements in centralized management if clients are already well managed. Instead, we found most of the value in VDI to be in augmenting the user's primary client device." Dunlop cites software licensing and SAN costs as the most significant drags on TCO.
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