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CIOs can expect to hear more about desktop virtualization in the coming months, especially as vendors look to capitalize on interest in the area. Increasingly, organizations are turning to desktop virtualization software and thin clients, in some cases to replace traditional desktops and, in others, to gain more control over desktop environments.
"There has been strong growth in desktop virtualization, though the market has started from a small base and is still in the early stages of its market life cycle," says Michael Rose, an associate research analyst covering enterprise virtualization software for IDC. "The trend is being driven by organizations that find current desktop management platforms insufficient and inefficient in particular use cases."
In fact, Rose says, one of the key benefits of desktop virtualization is the ability to satisfy specific management needs that current platforms can't. "Using a virtualized infrastructure to manage desktops provides greater flexibility and efficiency," he says, particularly in change and configuration management.
Tony Iams, vice president and senior analyst at Ideas International, agrees that better manageability is one of the major benefits of virtualizing desktops. "Moving the state of desktop computing from the clients to servers allows the desktop environments to be maintained and secured, if necessary, with better economies of scale," he says.
Saint Vincent's Catholic Medical Centers, a major health care system serving the New York metropolitan area, uses VMware Infrastructure and VMware Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) to provide a hosted desktop environment. It began using virtualization in its data center as part of a server consolidation project, then looked to expand the technology to the desktop, says Kane Edupuganti, director of IT operations and communications.
Initially, a logical place to deploy VDI was in hospital departments in which user productivity was down because of WAN latency issues, Edupuganti says. St. Vincent's piloted desktop virtualization with thin clients in its emergency department in June 2008 to address latency. After a successful test, the medical centers deployed it more broadly.
VDI gave St. Vincent's not only a solution to the latency issues, but also an instant refresh of old user devices at a much lower cost. It had been spending $1,100 per device before virtualization and now spends about $900.
The hospital operates about 6,000 PCs that are between three and four years old. If St. Vincent's replaces those units with thin-client devices and VDI, it will save an estimated $1.2 million.
The hospital has reduced average downtime to about 30 minutes. Time spent on desktop hardware maintenance and repair is minimal with VDI: St. Vincent's cut the average time desktop technicians spent imaging PCs and setting up and deploying applications from four hours to about 15 minutes for either a desktop or thin client.
"VDI provides us with tremendous ROI from hardware, power, management, data security and maintenance perspectives," Edupuganti says.
Information is securely stored in data centers, and data management is easier because the data is centrally located. In addition, there's reduced energy consumption: The amount of power consumed by traditional PCs is about 150 to 160 watts, Edupuganti says, but with the virtualized desktops, power consumption drops to just five watts per device.