May 02 2012

Why Aren't Federal Agencies Rushing Towards Desktop Virtualization?

The mass adoption of virtual desktop infrastructure has yet to take place.

As client virtualization gets a footing at the Air Force Security Forces Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Richard Johnsen, the center’s senior network engineer, realizes he’s onto something new. In general, he says, the Air Force has embraced server virtualization, but desktop deployments have been limited. And analysts say that’s the case throughout government.

Info-Tech Research Group predicted mass adoption of virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) in 2011. That’s not quite what happened, but there’s reason to believe that VDI’s time is coming.

“Budgets are starting to loosen up, and people are looking to VDI,” says Laura Hansen-Kohls, Info-Tech senior research analyst. “But they’re realizing there’s a price tag to getting set up. As a result, agencies are introducing VDI over four or five years.”

Early on, storage was a bottleneck to VDI adoption, so agencies started installing storage area networks. Then they needed to upgrade their networks to 1 Gigabit throughput to support the connections between clients and data centers. Then agencies realized they wanted to time their VDI initiatives with their desktop refresh cycles in order to maximize the useful life of their existing clients.

Hansen-Kohls says the value proposition for VDI is different than that of server virtualization. Many organizations think that because they virtualized their data centers, they can easily do the same thing for their clients. “But it’s very different,” she says. “There is very little chance you’ll adopt VDI to save money. The benefits of VDI are really operational. You get improved efficiency and security.”


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