Progression of Desktop Virtualization Technology

History. Some people think that the only way to understand the present and predict the future is by knowing the past. As a fan of history and of technology, I get excited about the ways technology has evolved just in our lifetime. Let’s take a look at how desktop virtualization began and how its features have progressed. First came, Microsoft Terminal Services published desktops – This was the pre-desktop virtualization option for customers. It was limited in functionality and ran on a Windows Server OS instead of Windows XP which created application compatibility issues and limited user customization since the environment was shared.  But it did scale very well as it has a single Server OS with multiple sessions and is still the lowest cost way to deliver basic virtual desktop to task workers.

Then came the Persistent Desktops – Each user is assigned their own virtual desktop virtual machine running Windows XP / 7.  This allows the most user flexibility such as the ability for the user to install their own apps but results in increased management as each desktop need to be updated individually. The best comparison is physically taking your PC, putting it into the datacenter and then connecting to it remotely.  Typically traditional desktop management tools such as System Center Configuration Manager are required to manage all the desktops.  It also requires significant storage that is expensive SAN storage.

And so Pooled Desktops came along—Pooled desktops allowed for single image management so image updates can be done centrally once for all virtual desktop virtual machines.  However this has limitations for the user as their changes disappear when the base image is updated.  Technologies such as user profile virtualization and application streaming allows for some customization, but in general this does not approach the flexibility of a user’s laptop that has admin rights.

Time to cue in the OS / Application Layering – Layering combines the flexibility of persistent desktops with the simplified management of pooled desktops.  Companies such as Unidesk now allow a single base golden image that allows for the benefits of persistent desktops such as user installed apps.   You also have a storage savings benefit of pooled desktops.

So what lies ahead? Integrated VDI Monitoring which allows for real-time monitoring of a VDI environment and will assist with capacity planning to determine how best to scale the environment. Single Identity Management provides the same user identity across SaaS, VDI, and Terminal Services applications and policies to centrally control access.

So, what do you perceive is the next step in desktop virtualization and why?

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About the Author: Janet Diaz