Desktop virtualisation to reign supreme

15 Mar 2010

As Microsoft prepares to withdraw support for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), Windows 7 has unleashed many possibilities, foremost of which is desktop virtualisation, says Ronnie Dockery, Microsoft Windows Client manager.

How is Microsoft aligning its partner ecosystem to take advantage of the desktop virtualisation revolution?

We work with Citrix in this whole space; it’s a relationship that goes back 20 years. Our technologies complement each other and Citrix was the original leader in the thin client space and we leverage that tradition with our solutions.

Their XenDesktop family is a class-managing solution that makes desktop virtualisation real and tangible. From the server hosting of virtual machines, it is then all managed through Microsoft Systems Centre – that’s a key differential we have from the competition. This makes it possible to manage your entire desktop virtualisation strategy through a single pane of glass, efficiently and affordably.

Why would a business embark on a desktop virtualisation strategy, what’s the rationale?

Businesses increasingly want more flexibility and from an optimised desktop point of view they really want the agility and therefore lend themselves to the virtualised desktop environment.

Desktop virtualisation is particularly conducive to flexible working – if you’re a worker who moves from different sites and different desktops it allows you to log into a thin client and your profile follows you with all your apps and files.

Your identity governs profiles, how your desktop is managed and what apps you can use. It is possible for the IT manager to lock it down and optimise it centrally. This overcomes the problem of workers losing files.

Is desktop virtualisation widely in use in businesses today?

It is really just taking off and exists in pockets in companies. In effect, it is really about what the users want to do. Even if they want to carry a laptop it’s a way of making sure that files are kept secure and centrally managed.

We see it as a fantastic technology and believe it will only grow and grow. The technology has been around for years but now the solutions to make it happen are there and there are now proven technologies and proven customers. In a more and more demanding information world, it gives businesses that extra agility.

Is Windows 7 a catalyst for broader adoption of desktop virtualisation?

We believe so. People are looking at the entire desktop infrastructure and want to be more efficient and optimise the environment. It allows organisations to be more agile and removes the blocks on what they want to do.

It allows a user to log on from anywhere in the world whether its Tahiti or Tralee, from different sites. It’s a much more streamlined desktop solution.

How do you think it will save businesses money?

Overall, from a desktop perspective, the agility alone along with the demand for flexible working is key. It removes the painpoint in managing flexible workers – it really is the next level in terms of agility and how this is driving innovation in the enterprise.

People rarely work in a 9-5 way anymore, it’s almost 24×7 and desktop virtualisation lends itself to people who want to work flexible hours whether they’re on the road or working from home.

IDC recently described the virtual machine as another PC form factor. Would you agree with this assessment?

It essentially is a richer experience the client can offer and overall productivity and navigation is much more conducive. Used in conjunction with security technologies like Bitlocker, firms can rest easy knowing the worker is continuously up to speed and the files are secure whether they’re on a laptop or a terminal client.

Would it be fair to describe desktop virtualisation as a creation of cloud computing?

They’re almost one and the same. The cloud is a fantastic, mind-blowing development for technology. I’ve worked in software development for years and the story is improving all the time. We believe there will always be a need for the desktop despite the new form factors, it’s all to do with the modern worker and what they need.

We’re innovating but guided by what’s happening in the workspace, what people want drives this. The beauty of desktop virtualisation is you can inject new applications to all desktops centrally instead of some poor guy sitting there with a DVD trying to fix his machine.

There is also offline mode where application virtualisation allows you to cache the apps on a desktop. When the person goes back online the information is automatically synched.

Nine years since the introduction of XP, Service Pack 2 is reaching the end of its life. What’s happening on 13 July?

We’re effectively saying to customers that XP Service Pack 2 comes to the end of its life cycle on 13 July. What this means is if you continue to use it you won’t be supported from a security patch point of view.

We would urge people to move to Windows 7 and take advantage of the new features like direct access, caching, Bitlocker to go. People want to be mobile and flexible … it’s a really big leap.

People who want to remain using XP have the option, of course, to go to Service Pack 3 but why do that when there’s a very simple process involved in migrating to Windows 7.

XP has been a workhorse. It’s been around for a long time but the world has moved on and Windows 7 reflects the needs of the modern workforce.

Interview by John Kennedy

Photo: Ronnie Dockery, Microsoft Windows Client manager

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