The major players and where the money is

By Jessica Davis

After recession-related IT budget freezes that took the blame for many delayed technology projects and hardware refreshes, the stuff that was supposed to be hot in 2009 -- desktop virtualization, thin client and zero client computing -- is getting more attention again in 2010. Are you ready?
Some IT organizations looking to upgrade their fleet of corporate PCs have actually reconfigured their projects for thin clients and virtualized desktops rather than full desktop PC or laptop upgrades, according to Jeff Groudan, director of thin clients and client virtualization in the Personal Systems Group (PSG) at HP.

And a number of IT solution providers who specialize in virtualization have told Channel Insider the same thing. Customers are starting to show interest in this technology that takes much of the maintenance and break/fix work away from client hardware, delivering a virtual version of the desktop instead. Thin clients served by the corporate computing infrastructure save on labor costs. And MSPs who create their own desktop delivery service for their end customers (like the one that Virtual Bridges and Rackspace just partnered to create) can earn annuity income while end customers reduce capital expenditures over time.

Channel Insider has taken a look at the trends, the challenges and the solutions over the past few years, and our editors have compiled some resources for those IT solution providers with customers who are interested in these thin client implementations. Here’s our resource guide to help you get over the humps.

What is it? Desktop virtualization separates the desktop environment from the actual physical machine. The desktop environment is then stored on the server and delivered to the desktop over the network. The client device at the desktop doesn’t need to have a hard drive because the operating system, applications, and user preferences are delivered fresh to the user each time the user logs on. With the introduction of the PC-over-IP protocol, users have recently been able to enjoy the benefits of their familiar desktop environments, even on a zero client or thin client set up.

Channel Insider’s staff prepared some recipes for solution providers looking to build the infrastructure. Take a look.

Build an Affordable Virtualization Server for Thin-Client Computing
Why should large enterprises have all the fun when it comes to virtualization technology? Small businesses can benefit too. Build an inexpensive desktop virtualization server that brings virtualized desktops to client PCs anywhere, and at a price anyone can afford.

Replacing Desktop PCs with Zero-Client Solutions
It doesn’t matter if you call it PC-over-IP, zero footprint PC, zero-client computing or just plain dumb terminal computing, the computing endpoint is undergoing a major change. Virtual desktop infrastructure from Wyse Technology, Pano Logic and Teradici may soon eliminate conventional PCs.

Looking at cost savings
While most in the industry agree that thin client acquisition costs aren’t going to end up any lower than the familiar PC/server infrastructure we’ve grown so comfortable with over the past several years, there are some ways to transition to the new model and spread out the costs. One such example is from Igel which came out last year with a
$99 PC card that converts
old desktop PCs into thin clients.
 It's a technology that Daimler Chrysler recently decided to use to extend the life of its aging fleet of Dell desktop PCs. Igel rival Wyse, has also introduced a solution to accomplish the same goal for less than $100 per machine.

The right message to the right person
While most CIOs show a high level of interest in thin client technology, many are still concerned about network bandwidth impact, costs and security. But smaller proof-of-concept deployments are a good way to get started, testing the benefits and the downsides.

Meanwhile, certain verticals may show more interest than others do in desktop virtualization technology. For instance, financial services companies are most receptive to the idea..

Looking for a list of benefits for desktop virtualization to discuss with your end customers? We’ve compiled a list of some of the top pluses, including centralized management, lower power consumption and simplified disaster recovery.

The major players
Virtualization giant VMware has been setting the tone by dominating the server virtualization market which has exploded over the past few years. Can it do the same with desktop virtualization? The company laid out its plans to channel partners at a conference earlier this year, which focused on key areas such as the integration of its recently acquired e-mail and collaboration platform, Zimbra, as well as desktop virtualization technologies.

VMware introduced VMware View 4 last year, which incorporates the PC-over-IP protocol, technology which one IT solution provider told Channel Insider was "disruptive" and "game-changing".

But VMware’s strength doesn’t mean that virtualization rival, Citrix, is out of the game either. Managed services and infrastructure provider Carpathia Hosting told Channel Insider the reasons behind why it chose Citrix over VMware for cloud virtualization. Check them out here.

Microsoft the long shot? Well, when it comes to virtualization the software giant was late to the game with its server virtualization. The best selling points may be its integration with everything Microsoft and its price – shipping free with Windows Server.   And some in the industry are saying that Microsoft’s Hyper-V may very well appeal to small businesses that are looking to get in the game, but don’t want to shell out lots of cash yet. Solution providers have told Channel Insider that it’s no big deal to migrate from one hypervisor to another if the company grows. So what does it matter?

Plus, Microsoft recently made a host of desktop virtualization announcements, including a partnership with Citrix to create a "VDI Kick Start Promotion" that combines Citrix's XenDesktop with Microsoft's VDI and offers the package to businesses for just $28 per user. And in an indication that things are heating up, the companies said that to win customers back over to Citrix desktop virtualization, Citrix and Microsoft are offering a promotion in which they will allow customers to trade up to 500 VMware desktop virtualization licenses for the combined Citrix XenDesktop/Microsoft VDI desktop virtualization licenses at zero cost to the customer.Microsoft is also planning virtualization features for its Windows 7 SP 1 when released that will improve performance.

Where the real money is

And just like everything else, it’s not the hardware sales that are going to make you money with virtual clients, it’s the ongoing service engagements.


This article was originally published on 2010-04-02