With virtualization technology firmly established in the data center, there is growing interest in extending its benefits to client devices. In the data center, virtualization enables server consolidation and is a key component of emerging dynamic workload balancing and failover solutions. The advantages on the desktop are equally significant and revolutionary. Client virtualization can help tighten security, increase control over the client computing environment and expand flexibility.

Client virtualization partitions familiar hardware assets — such as desktop and laptop computers — into multiple isolated virtual environments, referred to as virtual machines. As with server virtualization, one of the many benefits of partitioning can be found in how client devices can run more than one operating system, isolate applications from one another, and take advantage of new and more flexible computing models.

There are significant gains in security, control and flexibility in client virtualization that can help organizations remain ahead of the curve. These gains can substantially increase the value and extend the life of existing client-side computing investments.

Separation Brings Security

Client virtualization can significantly improve security. In a virtual client environment, productivity applications can be separated from personal applications. This gives IT the means to separate vulnerable aspects of personal computing — such as web browsers, gaming and media — from tools such as office productivity software and enterprise-class applications.

This separation limits the impact of malware and viruses to particular applications, so the overall client system is not contaminated — regardless of where a web browser travels. And if one virtual environment in a client system is infected, it can be easily quarantined, treated or removed and reimaged without harming other virtualized environments running on the same client.

The ability to create isolated environments also makes virtualized client systems ideal repositories for software downloads. Once an application is downloaded to a dedicated partition in a virtualized client environment, it can also be used — and then discarded — without affecting other applications users require.

Partitioning Increases Control Over Information Access

Increased control over information access is another substantial benefit of client virtualization — an important consideration in managing remote workforces. Application and system isolation can provide IT organizations with more power to decide how — and who — gains access to critical data.

Application and system isolation can provide IT administrators with comprehensive control over any client system accessing a network. For example, locked-down virtual machines can be run on home PCs and used by remote staff to access isolated and controlled work environments, so that critical data is not stored on local hard drives.

Doing More With Less Increases IT Flexibility

With more control comes increased flexibility to maximize existing and planned IT investments. Because virtualization allows multiple operating systems such as Linux® and Microsoft® Windows  to run on a single client machine, organizations can do more with less. Advances in client virtualization are pointing the way to expanding IT potential. Inexpensive open source applications can run concurrently with needed proprietary software. This flexibility to expand the capabilities of existing client systems also ensures that older, legacy applications can still be accessed, even as organizations migrate to 64-bit applications.

The importance of client virtualization goes even further than providing IT with more flexibility. Client virtualization can also increase flexibility for the user — at home, in the office and on the move — and this can enable new approaches to client computing, and the support of a variety of client devices.