Client virtualization can be a powerful tool to help balance competing IT challenges. It can help you meet your employees’ need for flexibility and your need to maintain data security, manage IT assets, and contain IT costs. But it can simultaneously pose tradeoffs in manageability, security, hardware performance, and the relative cost of function and value.
When you think of client virtualization, your mind might equate it with virtual hosted desktops, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), or thin clients. All of these things are certainly parts of client virtualization, but the idea encompasses many other things. Client virtualization can help balance the needs of employees who want to use the devices that help them perform at their best with IT’s needs to maintain security, manage centrally, and contain costs. Toward that end, client virtualization delivers the software, services, and data users need to be productive.
The leaders in the field, Citrix and VMware, both provide client virtualization solutions that span the range of client virtualization implementations, from VDI to application virtualization to remote desktop access.
Citrix grew out of application streaming and remote desktop access and has close ties to Microsoft going back decades. VMware’s heritage as the pioneer in server and workstation virtualization makes its client virtualization solution an automatic heir to its expertise and capabilities in virtual workload management. VMware’s large installed base in server virtualization also means that its client virtualization solutions could tie more easily into many companies’ wider virtualization efforts. Ultimately though, both Citrix and VMware provide powerful tools to improve the user experience.
Client virtualization use cases focus heavily on flexibility, both for users and for IT. Examples of these include maintaining legacy applications, providing Windows applications to mobile workers, and supporting remote users. All of these examples provide multiple ways of using and deploying client virtualization.
The parallel-but-not-identical nature of the Citrix and VMware solutions underscores a fundamental fact about client virtualization: it is never a one-size-fits-all solution. This is true both when selecting a client virtualization vendor to use and when deciding which models to use. A successful client virtualization strategy depends on a clear view of what you are trying to achieve.
Client virtualization can be a complex undertaking, and you should carefully analyze tradeoffs in manageability, security, user productivity, and the relative cost of function and value when considering it. On its own, client virtualization will not cure your IT headaches. Unless you already have client management under control, client virtualization can actually increase the complexity of your IT environment.
Although client virtualization decouples computer-driven productivity from the hardware by doing some or all of the actual computing, hardware on both the client and the server side still matters. Simple client devices for consuming complex data streamed to them will work for some use cases, but if users want to do meaningful analysis or want to have a near-local usage experience from client devices, those devices will need to have processors powerful enough to do the job. Similarly, as client virtualization implementations push more computing onto the servers, server performance and scalability matters more and more. Client virtualization doesn’t relieve you of thinking hard about hardware performance. Rather, it makes it more important than ever to reconsider how and where to deploy higher-performance hardware.
For more on client virtualization and strategies for making it work for both user and IT, read the full report in Understanding Today’s Client Virtualization Ecosystem.
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