Virtual-desktop integration touches all professions

Virtual-desktop integration is hot, not only with IT practitioners, but with professionals of many stripes.

John Webster Special to CNET News
John, a senior partner at Evaluator Group, has 30 years of experience in enterprise IT storage, spanning mainframe and open systems environments. He has served as principal IT adviser at Illuminata and has held analyst positions at IDC and Yankee Group Research. He also co-authored the book "Inescapable Data Harnessing the Power of Convergence."
John Webster
3 min read

I recently gave a presentation at a small gathering of IT "enthusiasts" in Albany, N.Y. I say "enthusiasts" because the audience was an eclectic mix of IT technologists and people with advanced expertise in non-IT fields. For example, I met two people from an architectural firm, and neither was an IT administrator. One was an architect and the other was a building systems engineer (HVAC, wiring, etc.). They were there specifically to learn more about an IT systems requirement for a new elementary-school building project. I had not expected to see an architect in the crowd for a presentation titled "Storage in a Virtual World."


My talk centers on the relationship of storage to virtualized server environments and is pitched to IT professionals. It has three parts: a general discussion about the importance of storage; then a more specific discussion about storage requirements and virtual server environments; wrapped-up by a discussion of storage for virtual-desktop integration (VDI). The audience was more or less with me during the first part, but I began to lose the non-IT people when I hit server virtualization. However, I got everybody back during the VDI discussion. When I explained to this audience what VDI was, the room came back to life--big time. In fact, that's all they wanted to talk about during the ensuing Q&A.

The discussion following the presentation centered mostly on VDI performance. That was great for the sponsors of the event--system integrators that implement and support what they sell and install. Their message: we'll figure that out for you.

From the discussion it became clear to me that public school systems are actively pursuing VDI projects. I am now aware of at least two in the Albany area that want to put terminal screens rather than PCs or laptops in front of kids from about the second grade on up through high school. It turns out that the architect in the crowd was working on a new elementary-school building project. He was in the audience because he didn't really understand what he was hearing from the school department's tech guy regarding systems, networking, and storage requirements within the building. Now he gets it. They want to do VDI.

There was another school system techie in the audience as well. They were already moving ahead with VDI deployment at the elementary-school level. The architect really appreciated hearing from someone who was already gaining VDI experience at the classroom level, so to speak.

A different non-technology discussion erupted as well. Health care is a segment where we have seen keen interest in VDI. An IT administrator from one of the large health care providers in the area spoke of resistance. Doctors were loath to let go of their PCs and laptops. He said it was a personal, and sometimes political, thing--call it the "doctor/PC relationship" if you want to and it's hard to break.

My experience from this presentation convinced me that VDI is hot, not only with IT practitioners, but with professionals of many stripes. However, system performance as experienced by the application user is a common concern and will likely be of critical importance to the overall success of a VDI deployment. If as an IT administrator, you're going to take a symbol of power and prestige away from a power user, the new experience with whatever replaces it should feel like a step forward. Otherwise, expect application user backlash.