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Microsoft exec: Most virtual desktop technologies are too edgy for businesses now

Centralizing business desktops using virtualization technologies is a good idea, but its time hasn’t come, according to Mike Neil, Microsoft general manager for virtualization strategy.

I had a one-on-one interview with Mike following his keynote today at the Server Blade Summit in Anaheim, Calif. We covered a lot of topics, but this summation of the current state of virtual desktop technologies stood out for me for this reason: I’ve heard a slew of vendors touting their virtual desktop technologies here, and I see too many choices and too few that are proven to work and save money for IT organizations.

Here’s what Mike Neil had to say on this subject:

“We see a couple of different use scenarios emerging right now, based on Terminal Server and virtual machines (VMs).

“Obviously, today Terminal Server is a widely used for centralizing applications in the data center and remotely presenting and accessing them, and we’ve done a lot of work in Longhorn Server to enhance capabilities like access from outside the firewall. Terminal Server via our partnership with Citrix is behind most of the centralized desktop deployments today.

“The emerging technology that’s interesting is using virtual machines with centralized enterprise desktop licensing to enable that. We see three scenarios in the virtual machine side emerging.

“One is that you, the user, get a virtual machine on a specific server. You connect to it from a thin or rich client environment. A lot of people are doing that today.

“The other is using a connection broker. Your desktop connects to the connection broker which spins up a virtual machine within the pool of physical servers that allow you to connect to applications. That environment can be more dynamic.

“A third approach, which is more on the edge, is a model where you connect to the connection broker, and it creates from scratch a VM for you. Then, you use technology like SoftGrid to stream applications down into that environment.

“All of those right now I would characterize as being cutting edge scenarios. Any company doing it has the primary goal of cutting operational costs of their desktop systems and deal with compliance issues, to put data into the data center where it can be controlled, backed up and put in disaster recovery scenarios.

“There isn’t anything that has come out that can claim to be the ultimate architecture with a spreadsheet that says, ‘Here are the multi-year cost savings associated with this scenario.’ I would advise companies to use great caution or wait-and-see which technologies are proven.”

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