Desktop PCs are expensive. They need upgrading every few years and require constant patching and IT management to ensure they remain secure and function correctly.
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Thin client computing has given IT departments a way to solve many of the problems associated with traditional desktop computing by removing PCs from user's desks, centralising PC applications on servers such as Citrix Metaframe, and offering thin client devices for access.
Businesses have deployed this model where they require secure end-user computing and where traditional desktop PC deployments have not been practical.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), also known as hosted desktop infrastructure, is the logical evolution of thin client computing. It allows the server infrastructure to be deployed in the cloud and end-users to access applications and data via the internet.
Gartner analyst Brian Gammage said in a blog that desktop virtualisation technology has been drawing significant interest from enterprises for over two years, and many pilot/proof-of-concept deployments look set to go "live" in the year ahead.
With businesses waiting to upgrade their desktop PCs to Windows 7, now could be the best time to assess the different options available.
Dale Vile, research director at analyst firm Freeform Dynamics, said, "Now is a great time for IT directors to talk about new ways to deal with the desktop because people have skipped Vista and are looking forward to upgrading to Windows 7."
Businesses are already familiar with the concept of managed desktop services. In this approach, the supplier takes ownership of the desktop and leases it back to the company. Suppliers are now beginning to supplement this model of desktop outsourcing with thin client and hosted desktop services.
Among the options is a suite of services from IBM for desktop cloud computing services, announced yesterday, which enables users to access their information remotely from various devices.
The IBM Smart Business Desktop uses IBM's cloud subscription service to help businesses virtualise desktop applications and data. IBM said the service requires no upfront capital or one-time expense and is designed to provide security, resilience, reliability and quality for virtual desktops. There are three types of service, covering desktop cloud computing accessed over the internet, hosted desktop virtualisation on a private network, and on-premises managed services.
Thin client desktops
HP has chosen to put thin client technology on standard PC desktops. The company has launched Thin Client Setup Wizard to help IT departments deploy thin client software on desktop PCs. HP is now also supporting software tools such as Microsoft Windows Fundamentals for legacy PCs. HP says this software allows traditional PCs to operate like a thin client, locking down unnecessary components for greater security.
Virtual desktop environment
Dell has expanded its Flexible Computing portfolio by incorporating VMware View into its Virtual Remote Desktop product. This also allows IT managers to run virtual desktops in the datacentre, while giving end-users a single view of their applications and data, which can be accessed from any device, according to Dell.
Centralising PCs in a datacentre may not seem a big priority for IT directors, but desktop virtualisation is becoming more viable, especially if it is used to provide computer resources for non-power users.