Microsoft ‘excited’ at potential of virtual desktop infrastructure

30 Mar 2010

The arrival of Windows 7 has led to the growing migration of users towards virtual desktop infrastructure, a trend that will lend agility to mobile workers and business continuity to enterprises, Microsoft’s senior product manager for virtualisation Ian Carlson said today.

Carlson, who was speaking at Microsoft’s Virtualisation Summit in Dublin, said the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) revolution has commenced. “A year ago, desktop virtualisation would have been a narrow conversation around VDI, but we are beginning to see this broaden out.”

He said that Microsoft – which spends on average US$8bn a year on R&D – has begun to invest heavily in VDI, particularly in solving virtualisation issues at application level, and enabling technologies that suit a variety of workforce types, from people in enterprises and mobile workers on the road, to enabling one-to-one application mapping for shift workers.

“The technology lends itself to the notion of being able to log in and have your settings, your apps and your data automatically there. The key is direction and roaming profiles. Our investments have concentrated on Vista and Windows 7 resulting in effective folder policies. Our Application Virtualisation technologies make it possible to decouple the app from the operating system. You can take that application and virtualise it into a bubble or move it around to PCs that I can access.”

VDI for CIOs and IT managers

He said that for IT managers and CIOs, this means they can create an application and deploy it centrally instead of by machine-to-machine.

Carlson said the primary target of VDI is well connected computing devices within an organisations. “With Windows 7 we have started to see a lot of migrations to enterprise desktop virtualisation.”

He said that one of the biggest hurdles for IT managers is the fear over application compatibility if they move to a new operating system. “We have developed technology that can run a copy of XP, for example, in the background, and expose the app natively inside the Windows 7 Start bar. The app will be listed like it was an Office app and will run in the window as if it was local but in reality it would be running as a virtual machine.”

He went on: “At Microsoft, we’re very excited by the VDI trend. We see it as good for every organisation, but not every desktop.” He explained VDI could prove challenging for laptop workers who work remotely as connectivity will be a factor.

He said that the notion of anywhere access to apps and settings is key. “The thinking is that once I virtualise my apps, when I log into a computer anywhere in Microsoft it knows that I have 16 apps assigned to me.”

Virtualisation benefits from VDI

Carlson said the key benefits of virtualisation from the VDI perspective are application security and compliance, business agility and continuity and application virtualisation.

“Virtualisation is a critical and strategic investment area for Microsoft. We think of virtualisation as a management technology. Is it an infrastructure technology? Absolutely, but it really is the ability to manage disaster recovery, performance, and workloads dynamically,” Carlson said this morning.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Microsoft’s senior product manager for virtualisation Ian Carlson

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years