Desktop virtualization Featured

7:00pm EDT February 28, 2007

The Gartner Group estimates there will be 30 million virtual desktops by 2010. This development, coupled with the advent of Microsoft’s new Vista operating system, are raising questions about updating systems. How hard is it to upgrade? How long will it take? What will it cost? Will my present applications run on the new system? Are the new features worth the cost and effort?

“With desktop virtualization it can be a simple, quick process to make changes in any part of your computer system,” says Omar Yakar, CEO of Agile 360. “Without desktop virtualization, each PC must be worked on individually or complex and inconsistent distribution tools must be used. The downloading and setup takes time. Another advantage of desktop virtualization is the immediacy of disaster recovery and the ability for employees to work from anywhere.”

Smart Business asked Yakar for more insight on desktop virtualization.

Exactly what is desktop virtualization?

We are coming full circle from the days of the mainframe. Back then, there was a finite set of applications and user interface drawn to a green screen terminal, there were high fixed costs and change took forever. This drove business units needing more agility to the first PCs, and the revolution was born.

One side effect, however, is that we moved a secure and controlled infrastructure to the equivalent of the Wild West, and cost and security risks of managing individual user environments skyrocketed along with the productivity gains.

Essentially, desktop virtualization is moving information each employee needs to function in their job from individual personal computers at each desk to their own virtualized desktop file on a central server (traveling users can also run this on a laptop or disconnected workstation). IT becomes like the cable company, where each user has a cable box and remote. Each user gets his or her own desktop, but it’s all managed from the security of a data center. Office moves are simplified because all cable boxes and remote controls are the same; anywhere you go, you still get your own desktop environment.

How do you go about setting up this virtualization?

Picture four components of a desktop computer. First is the hardware. Second is the operating system (for instance, Microsoft XP or Vista). Third is the combination of applications (Microsoft Office, etc.). Fourth are the settings that make the computer your own PC. This could include the background with the family ski vacation, the configuration of icons that work best for you and how you want your system to open.

Now decouple these four and picture them in individual boxes. Any one box can be replaced without affecting the others — meaning I could change the operating system box without any affect on the hardware, applications or personal settings.

The next time an organization upgrades even some of its PCs or operating system, a centralized environment is built. The desktop hardware is converted into the equivalent of a cable box, and the monitor, mouse and keyboard become the remote. From this point forward, the operating costs start a downward slide, while employees still experience their own desktop environment.

Are there other advantages to desktop virtualization?

The big one occurs if there is a need for disaster recovery. You don’t have individual pieces of data stored on a variety of desktops around the offices. Everything is on your company servers and, of course, a copy runs at your disaster recovery site. Because the two are running in tandem, the data added by and needed by any individual is always there and accessible at the data recovery site if something happens to the accessibility of the main company server.

Another advantage is a physical change of location within the office, where everyone has an identical ‘remote.’ There is no longer a need to move the users’ PC. Laptop users that need to work disconnected can still run local copies of a centralized desktop that updates once plugged back in.

As an executive, how can I look at this and see how I’m going to save money?

Centrally managed desktops bring us back to the security and lower cost model of the mainframe while still allowing individual desktop environments. Your systems can be upgraded in minutes or seconds, so something new that can be used to take advantage of a business opportunity can be added immediately.

If disaster recovery is needed, there is always a copy standing by. The best news of all is that — if it is done properly — it can cut in half the real cost of delivering information to end-users.

OMAR YAKAR is CEO of Agile360 in Irvine. Reach him at (949) 253-4106 or omar.yakar@agile360.com.