Winning Over CIOs to Desktop Virtualization

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

While most CIOs show a high level of interest in desktop virtualization, many are still concerned about its costs, network bandwidth impact and security. Some are running proof-of-concept deployments of a small number of users to test the benefits and downsides of desktop virtualization and thin-client computing.

While desktop virtualization offers the promise of lower costs and simplified management, the technology is still in its early stages of adoption and CIOs may still be resistant.

That’s because they perceive plenty of problems with the technology that is such a stretch from the client/server architecture that IT managers work with today, and there aren’t many references they can look at as success stories with the technology.

For example, CIOs tend to view desktop virtualization as posing more risk and a bigger security threat, according to Phil Grove, chief architect of collaborative solutions and director of strategy at IT consultant and systems integrator Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC).

Grove told Channel Insider that CIOs may be overlooking the security gains that come with desktop virtualization—that even though it does create a single point of attack in the data center, the data center security is better than typical desktop security, which means the whole infrastructure is better protected.

Grove said that while CIOs remain concerned about security, network bandwidth strain and cost that they see comes with desktop virtualization, they remain very interested in the technology and the business benefits it can offer.

He said he has counseled CIOs that the network effect can mitigate concerns about network bandwidth strain, and that the cost of desktop virtualization is actually lower than today’s systems when everything is factored in (for example, disaster recovery costs for an infrastructure using desktop virtualization versus DR costs for one without desktop virtualization).

Many customers are opting to do proof-of-concept deployments of the technology with 50 or so users whose roles are best suited for desktop virtualization deployments. For example, call center workers or those who telecommute may be the likely candidates for such a test.

Grove noted that it’s easy to deploy thin clients—much less work than provisioning and de-provisioning laptops. He said that the thin client he uses in his office is 1 by 5 by 8 inches.

"I do have a regular desktop. It’s a tablet laptop," he said. "But because I have the choice of going to a virtual desktop, I’m going to it more and more. But I’m not a purebred yet."

Grove believes it will take a few years for those customers who are doing proof-of-concept deployments to adopt thin-client computing on a larger scale, and part of it is a cultural adjustment to the idea of letting go.

"Think of all those organizations that have gone to Salesforce.com," he said. "At the beginning they had to get rid of their Seibel investments and their SAP investments. That was not easy because now all their data is sitting with some other company. But at the other side of it, now there are freedoms. Look at all the IT staff we don’t have to worry about anymore."

Even with all things considered, about 20 percent of the population will always need a full workstation rather than a virtualized desktop, according to Grove.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com