The Myth of the Virtual Desktop Comes to the Phone

The Myth of the Virtual Desktop Comes to the Phone

A few years ago I wrote a 40 page whitepaper on Virtual Desktops.  I extolled the virtues of what seemed to me to be an obvious decision.  You take the hundreds or thousands of desktops in your office and cost $600 per system and replace them with little boxes that cost $40 and a one tenth as many small servers that cost $2500.  Not only do you end up saving $3100 for every 10 systems that you virtualize, but you get a number of other gains.  Performance will actually increase since you can shift resources from users that aren’t doing much to users that are.  You can harvest the extra compute capacity when the office is closed and no one is using the systems.  You get real HA and DR for your desktop systems.  Repair becomes as simple as throwing a $40 box away (or sending it back to the manufacturer) and replacing it with a new one.  I couldn’t believe every single client that we pitched the idea to said that they liked it, bought the white paper, and then bought desktops.

I learned something valuable in that process.  People are afraid to mess with their users in even the slightest way, even if it could mean big ROI.  That’s why when I read that LG and VMWare have been working together on phone virtualization and that a prototype is actually working, I tempered my initial enthusiasm.  The idea of being able to take one phone and switch back and forth between work and home by (for example, I don’t know how they do it), clicking the side button is AWESOME. But that’s the geek in me speaking, the practical business person looks at the lack of adoption of Google Voice and Virtual Desktops and doubts that this will ever be a market success.  Anyone disagree?

  • Dave Brillhart

    Hey Jon! You captured the value prop of thin stateless clients well. It makes as much sense as Big Ben heading to the Superbowl again. I’ve preached the concept also, since the Java Station from Sun (circa 1996). You’re right that IT (generally a cost center) rarely has the courage or power to mess with revenue-producing business units and their users. But, I think maybe the transformation may actually happen this time around. Because, it’ll be the *users* that demand it from IT. Their new mobile platforms (tablets, powerful smart phone, etc) and fast ubiquitous cell/wifi networking allow them to access their data and run their apps and tap into networked services (Gmail, Web, Social, Banking, etc, etc), and they will demand similar access to corporate services. They may even think they came up with the idea, and wonder why IT is always behind the curve and playing catch up with innovation by consumers of IT :-).  I’m okay with that… whatever it takes to offer resilient managed recoverable services. Ultimately it is a win-win. Speaking of which, can Tebow do it again in New England!?

    • I think the transition to thin clients based on cloud applications (Gmail, etc…) is subtly different than a transition to virtual desktops.  While they both result in smaller computers on the client-side, they are different ways to skin the same cat.  Actually, I think because of the maturity of cloud applications and the lack of adoption of virtual desktops, the window when virtual desktops is useful is coming to a close.

      I think the same thing may happen where security software and the use of cloud based data (that’s actually sitting on a server instead of actually sitting on your phone) may similarly mean that before the market adopts phone virtualization it won’t be necessary.

      As far as Tebow in New England goes.  I think they have a great chance as long as by the end of the first quarter Tom Brady is only 70%, the starting center is injured, the entire defensive line is injured, the top 2 running backs are injured, the strong safety can’t play, and the defense is too stupid to adapt from a strategy that clearly isn’t working.