Think 2014 will be the year of VDI? Think again

The time has come to say goodbye to a much-loved annual event: declaring the coming year as the ‘Year of VDI’.

There is no doubt that VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) deployments will continue to grow, use cases will develop and the technology will continue to be a key part of the IT department’s desktop portfolio, but it simply won’t be the complete panacea for the IT problems that we once thought.

To understand why, look no further than the two trends that are set to dominate 2014: enterprise mobility and cloud-hosted desktops.

Mobility is undoubtedly changing the way that people work and the way IT can support evolving workstyles and behaviour. As we see the mobility strategy of different enterprises maturing, simultaneously consumer technology is showing us that it’s apps and data that really matter.

Consumers are now very happy to procure and download the apps they need to do their work onto their device of choice, be it a Windows Surface tablet or on an iPhone. The laptop is no longer dominant, it’s just one of the many devices that individuals are bringing into the workplace.

As a result IT is having to face the challenge of being able to host and deliver thousands of Windows apps across any device regardless of where they are needed, without leaving a trace of the user. For this to occur effectively though, we have to recognise that complete virtual desktops are great for certain use cases, but they are just one possible option to enable a mobile, flexible workforce.

The potential of cloud-hosted desktops is front of mind for many IT decision makers over the coming year, as organisations look for solutions that don’t involve buying, configuring and managing the entire solution on their own.

>See also: The case for desktop virtualisation

The introduction of Amazon WorkSpaces and the acquisition of Desktone by VMware show that this already healthy market will continue to expand. But the hype around such announcements, as in the early years of VDI, has hidden the important details.

It all comes down to maturity, while VDI can certainly play a role in cloud-hosted desktops the conversation has changed from where the desktops are running to managing the lifecycle of those desktops.

Providing the right service for a user takes more than just hosting a desktop OS. You have to be able to understand the role of data and apps in the productivity of employees in order to provide them with a tailored experience.

The services that will succeed are those that don’t just host a generic desktop but deliver the right apps in the right way for their users. As IT departments begin using public cloud infrastructures to provide desktop and app services they will also want a high level of control to ensure they are delivering the right tools and services to each individual.

For example, someone working in the health profession will have a completely different set of requirements compared to a graphic designer. These professions have vastly different needs, and it may simply not be appropriate or cost effective to provide them both with a complete VDI solution, when in fact they may just need to access certain apps on their personal tablet or laptop.

There is a common theme through both these trends: desktop virtualisation is about far more than VDI. To manage the balance between user requirements, cost and manageability, you have to have the flexibility to deliver virtual apps and desktops in a different way for each use case. Whether it be mobilising Windows apps to empower remote workers or enabling desktops and apps, there has to be the ability to give each individual a tailored experience.

2014 is going to be very exciting for enterprise mobility and cloud-hosted desktops, that’s for certain. However, those companies that focus and limit themselves purely to VDI will be clinging to the outdated market predictions and limited strategies of yesteryear. 

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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