iPad’s Running Windows?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a great technology.  But great technologies don’t always become great solutions.  Barb Darrow over at GigaOM post titled “Is this the year of desktop virtualization yet?”  It would seem the year of desktop virtualization has indeed been coming for the last 5 years.  VDI is a wonderful solution for the right use case.  The successful cases I’ve seen include, Remote Access and certain verticals such as health, education and manufacturing.  However, recently I’ve seen vendors such as Cisco trying to make a case for mobile Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).  I’ve posted earlier on how I believe BYOD is not a great use case for VDI.  Here’s a snapshot of my major concerns when it comes to VDI and BYOD.

Offline Access

The two major vendors in VDI, Citrix and VMWare have similar approaches to solve this problem.  They both involve running client side Hypervisors.  Citrix’ solution XenClient has a very limited range of hardware that will it supports.  VMWare leverages its leadership in client side Hypvervisors to allow offline usage with VMWare Workstation like features in VMWare View.

When designing a solution with this approach here are major issues to overcome.

  1. Clients have to be fairly robust to run a hypervisor not to mention someone has to support these machines.
  2. Bandwidth required to synchronize the datacenter based VDI and the remote client.
  3. No offline option for ARM based tablets.  This may change with Windows 8 and Intel based tablets.

User Experience

User experience is great in today’s modern VDI solutions, when using VDI for its original use case – Thin Client Computing.  However, the workforce and work environment are changing.  IT is becoming a commodity in both the workplace and in the home.  Products like Windows Home Server, Dropbox, and Google Apps have created a second market for collaboration that is out of the control of corporate IT.  End users have found ways to be collaborative in the way that they desire collaboration.

So, while VDI allows you to present Windows based enterprise applications to non-Windows smartphones and tablets it doesn’t allow for the fluid user experience that end users are now getting from readily available services.  I’ve used windows applications on my iPad and while it works the experience leaves a lot to be desired.

I think this speaks to the change in what consumers consider as personal computing solutions.  When we first started talking BYOD 5 years ago, Windows dominated not only the enterprise but the consumer markets.  This is no longer the case today.  Consumers have a large section of operating systems and form factors from which to choose.  And they conflict with the primary choice for VDI workstation environments Windows.  Microsoft has already spent at least 10 years proving that end users don’t want mobile devices running Windows. So, why are we trying to still deploy it as a solution via VDI?

I’m a fan of VDI.  Solutions like XenApp and XenDesktop enable companies to pool special use software licenses, centralize desktop support and simplify software deployment among many other attributes.  But, VDI is not the long term solution for BYOD from both a mobile and desktop experience.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on VDI as a BYOD solution.  What’s your organization’s approach to BYOD and enabling enterprise applications and collaboration?

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