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Real-World VDI (Part 5): End-user computing, the vision – Horizon, AppBlast, Octopus, and Should I skip the VDI bubble?

This Real-World VDI series has five parts: (Part 1) Multi-vendor stacks, (Part 2) Advanced graphics, (Part 3) Cost case challenge, (Part 4) Recent announcements, (Part 5) Future of VDI

Parts 1 – 5 are also posted at Virtualization Matrix.

As I said, the announcements at VMworld caused me to adjust my view of VMware’s end-user capabilities, but more important on VDI as a whole.

I’ll try to cover this in more detail in future posts but let me outline it on a high level.

VMware’s vision left me with a nagging thought … is VDI really the next logical step for “everyone” or is VDI just the next IT bubble we are trying to sell?

Honestly (having attended VMworld every year since the first one in 2004), I thought the moments where I sit in a session and think “wow, that’s amazing” were history … but I was wrong, Steve Herrod’s key note this year was (again) one of those.

And it left me with a nagging thought … is VDI (HVD) really the next logical step for everyone, or as someone asked me in the past, “is VDI not just the next IT bubble you are trying to sell me?” 😉

During the session, VMware created a vision where Horizon takes central stage as an application portal (think “app store”) – presenting users their available (HVD) virtual desktops alongside session-based desktops (such as XenApp) and even SaaS-delivered applications.

ThinApp Factory will have the ability to be pointed to a repository of files (MSI, installed app) and convert the app automatically into a ThinApp-deliverable virtualized package. It integrates with Horizon so that thinly app’d applications will show up side-by-side with those I mentioned above (while ThinApp is likely to retain its “agentless” approach, integration and advanced management can now be done using the Horizon agent)

Add to the picture Octopus, a drop-box like service for data management and sharing, Horizon mobile (new name for MVP, the mobile hypervisor that enables running personal and business images on the same device) and virtual profiles for persona management. You suddenly have an incarnation of a next-generation user-centric and portable end-user environment.

The wow-factor however was delivered courtesy of AppBlast – a preview of a VMware environment that can potentially deliver ANY application, remotely  to any device with an HTML5-compliant browser. So yes, you can for example run Microsoft Visio on your iPad! Check out this great demo Vladan Seget posted.

A natural question is: Should you really invest in something like VDI if this Nirvana of app delivery is “just around the corner?” Can you possibly “skip VDI” and simply wait for HTML5 or similar thinOS and web browser-based approaches?

In a very simplified view, my conclusion is that, for many, VDI is a stepping stone, a tactical solution that can achieve immediate benefits.

VDI can help to facilitate the (strategic) transformation of your approach to end-user computing.
It helps to modularize OS and applications, encourages user persona and profile management, centralization of resources, and forces you to rethink the role of the OS in the future environment.

But more fundamentally it helps you to (strategically) transform your approach to end-user computing. It helps you to modularize OS and applications, encourages user persona and profile management, centralization of resources, and forces you to rethink the role of the OS in the future environment.

VDI might or might not be a subset of your future end-user environment. Realistically we will have hybrid environments of physical desktops, session-based remote desktops (also known as terminal services), HVD, and increasingly browser-based app delivery for a long time in larger estates. The requirement to match use cases and user categories with the appropriate (financially viable) technology will not go away.

It would be foolish to think that next year all apps will be delivered through HTML5, Silverlight, Flex, and others. I also know that many of my clients don’t agree with the statement that the “PC is dead” – and I certainly won’t give my laptop up yet – but (unfortunately) now carry it around (alongside!) my iPhone, iPad, and my ability to access my virtual desktop remotely.

But there is no doubt that the role of the operating system (for example, Windows) – which historically abstracted vast amounts of physical hardware to provide runtime environments for applications – is changing. The vision to have a thin OS (think of it primarily as a runtime for a browser, not more) remotely delivering “any app” to “any device” is extremely powerful.

That is my view. But where do you think this is all going? Are we getting ahead of ourselves or are we pursuing a feasible vision?

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