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Client-side virtual desktop technology: Unnecessary?

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article about VMware ACE virtual desktop alternatives Kidaro and vThere. Michael Brennan, a reader and a principal at the 17-year-old Barrington, Ill.-based consulting company Advanced Logic Corp., wrote in with an interesting point of view:

I find it puzzling that the industry is now considering client-side virtualization at all. It will doubtlessly add to the total cost of ownership of the most expensive computing devices in the environment and poses a security risk for the data in the virtual machines (VMs). (Unless you truly believe that the security of a VM can’t or won’t be an issue.)

It also adds a layer of complexity to the user experience that has already been eliminated by the secure deployment of applications and information on corporate portals.

While the client-side virtual desktops could provide application delivery, how will you reconcile the data component on a desktop image?

If you are using only virtual desktops to deliver applications, I would offer that there are several tried-and-true mechanisms for doing that today.

Even virtual desktops running on servers, like VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and Citrix’s XenSource products are essentially trying to reinvent thin client computing with a small twist: by letting the user customize his or her desktop. Using Citrix published applications on PCs rather than Microsoft’s Terminal Services or Citrix’s published desktop, you can achieve the same result. On the client side, you still need the same device for virtual desktops, either a PC or a thin-client device.

(The cost differential between these device types has nearly vanished.)

For mobile computing devices, without technology in place that prevents users from copying corporate data to it in the first place, the whole security enhancement allegedly provided by desktop virtualization is negated.

The issue of lost mobile devices is another serious problem. It can be best handled by existing technologies that automatically disable the device if it doesn’t “phone home” within a configurable time.

The key for our clients: provide appropriate access to corporate applications and data securely and cost-effectively while being sensitive to where the client is and what device he or she is coming in on.

We can deliver on that need cost effectively without client-side virtualization.

Server virtualization blog readers of the world: What are your thoughts? Are client-side virtualized desktops necessary, or did the previously existing technologies serve the needs remote workers well enough?

Are you looking at client-side virtual desktops in your company? What technologies are you looking at (VMware ACE, Kidaro, vThere)?

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