The first widespread use of virtualization was on the desktop. Companies tired of maintaining armies of technicians to tweak, fix, and upgrade desktop PCs. Operating system migrations, PC replacements, operational PC costs, and PC security concerns had become major and unaffordable costs. Managers wanted a standardized environment. Even better, they wanted an environment that can physically sit in a closet or a room full of servers.
The two main vendors to jump on this bandwagon were Citrix and VMware. As the workforce became more mobile, the importance of remotely accessing a virtual desktop increased. Today’s desktop is really an end-user environment defined by a profile consisting of applications, documents, and configuration data. As end users rely more and more on mobile devices such as laptops, smart phones, and removable storage drives, they need desktop environments that they can access anytime, anywhere.
With the traditional “monolithic” desktop, the applications, operating system, and user data are all tied to a specific piece of hardware. Virtualization breaks the bonds between these elements into isolated layers, enabling IT staff to change, update, and deploy each component independently for greater business agility and improved response time. End users also benefit from virtualization because they get the same rich desktop experience, but with the added ability to access that computing environment from multitude of devices and access points in the office, at home, or on the road.
Virtual desktops are also superior to terminal services because they eliminate the headaches associated with application sharing and application compatibility. Instead of having to share a limited subset of applications that are compatible with terminal services, each end user gets a complete, standardized, and fully customizable desktop computing environment—a virtual machine. Each virtual desktop is completely isolated from other virtual machines, and IT administrators can provision and manage OS and application software just as they would with a traditional PC
Use of virtual desktops began about the turn of the millennium (2000) and are still a big deal. According to a June 2010 Morgan Stanley report, half of the CIOs surveyed plan to use desktop virtualization within twelve months, which the firm believes could double the reach of client virtualization. Morgan sees the VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) market growing to a $1.5 billion opportunity by 2014. This would represent a 67 percent compound annual growth rate. Not surprisingly, VMware and Citrix are expected to remain the dominant vendors behind that trend.
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