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The Changing Face of Virtual Desktop Services and BYOD

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NelsonHall is currently conducting a report on virtual desktop services and BYOD. The market is shifting from virtual desktop services to services that support choose your own device scenarios. Enterprise mobility, however, remains strictly confined to smart phones and to some extent to tablets.

Traditionally, there were two main end user outsourcing offerings in the market:

  • A client custom service, often based on a vendor-designed reference architecture - this was the dominant model
  • Packaged virtual desktop offerings with pay-per-use pricing; these varied from semi- to fully-comprehensive with a standard virtual desktop and a full range of applications. Most of these offerings took a different approach to cloud computing and sharing of hardware and storage.

Interestingly, in spite of quite compelling business cases, packaged “cloud” offering have not had much market take up to date. One reason for this lack of success is that market maturity was not ready for a packaged service: clients still purchase custom services and want to integrate with Active Directory and their existing IT.

Client demand thus centered on a custom service, though the drivers were largely cost savings-driven. Simply-depicted, it centered on application presentation/server-based computing as opposed to VDI technology. Demand for VDI-based virtual desktops has been based on features (or “use cases”), whether for IT needs (e.g. security, centralization of applications for deployment), or business needs (e.g. providing access to a number of applications to people on the move).

Meanwhile, the big news in recent years has been client interest in BYOD and in enterprise mobility.

But examples of BYOD contracts, in the PC space, are still not common: companies are not rushing to implement BYOD policies, sometimes because of lack of end-user interest, sometimes because of legal, and tax allowance impacts. However, what has emerged is the notion of choose your device (CYD): enterprises still purchase PC hardware but are giving more freedom on the type of PC that employees can select. The practice is still not common, particularly in large enterprises. NelsonHall believes that the CYD approach is more likely than BYOD, which has too many tax and HR implications, especially in Europe.

Enterprise mobility (for PCs) certainly is one of the reasons why deployment of virtual desktops has accelerated in the past 12 month. Clients are adopting a mix of VDI and server based computing virtual desktops to address task workers, information workers, mobile workers and executives in different ways. Depending on the client, physical desktops, largely notebooks  still represent up to ~30%, server-based computing 60% and VDI 10%.

Meanwhile, enterprise mobility around smart phones is a different discussion: clients are quickly enabling their personnel to access enterprise applications from their personal devices. The move is pragmatic but certainly does not involve any policy regarding allowances to the end-user and tax considerations. Clients are empowering their personnel but certainly not funding their personnel investment in smart phones.

Looking ahead, the big next step is when IT services vendors will stop to address the mobility needs of their clients from two distinct offerings: virtual desktops and enterprise mobility. To some extent, the future lies in a mobile-enablement of PCs applications are to be accessed through many models, including stored on the local hard drive, through application presentation and steaming, through a VDI service or by using native mobile apps. The emergence of Windows 8 with its co-existence of traditional client-server applications and apps will help in the long term towards this direction. Managed services that include a mobile/PC OS convergence such as Windows 8 are likely to be extremely attractive to enterprises with large mobile professional workforces.

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