Microsoft Office remains a widely used business software portfolio but, increasingly, the devices workers use for computing--smartphones and tablets--are more likely to run Apple iOS or Google Android.
Desktop virtualization aims to solve the problem of bringing together these various applications and devices. Gartner predicts that 60% of enterprises will deploy desktop virtualization in 2012, up from 10% in 2008.
"We believe more users will be using Windows apps on devices that are not running Windows," said John Fanelli, VP of product marketing for enterprise desktops and applications at Citrix, a maker of desktop virtualization software, including cloud-delivered virtualization.
Consistent with the widely noted trend of the consumerization of enterprise IT, one can expect to see more tablet computers and smartphones--as well as laptops running Apple Mac OS X or Google Chrome OS--brought into the office by workers who received them as gifts over the holidays, Fanelli said. But because Microsoft Office remains the workhorse software suite for businesses, IT managers will need to use desktop virtualization to deliver Office to those various endpoint devices.
"The role of the Windows application is just as prominent, if not more prominent, but the access [device] itself may not be running Windows," he said.
[ IT departments will need to adapt or make a last stand in the shrinking server closet. See Gartner's 2012 Forecast: Cloudy, With Widespread Consumerization. ]
Citrix Receiver is the tool enterprises can use to deliver Windows apps to a non-Windows device. But it also incorporates some of the best features of the device hosting Receiver, Fanelli added. For instance, if Receiver is running on an Apple iPad, the Windows apps are arrayed on a grid on the homescreen, just as the apps are natively arrayed on an iPad. And the Windows apps are used with the touchscreen capabilities of the iPad because the device doesn't have a USB port for a mouse.
In 2012, desktop virtualization is expected to shift from the lab to the production environment for early adopters in certain segments, according to a forecast from Enterasys, a network infrastructure and security provider. Enterasys also predicts that the so-called bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in the workplace will heighten enterprise concern about the security of corporate data on those devices. Both Citrix and Enterasys, among others, provide security technology for those situations.
As Citrix's Fanelli describes it, in most cases the data can be viewed on the device because it's delivered through the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), but stored back at the data center, not on the device. He analogized it to a TV set whose programming is delivered by the cable or satellite service provider. In situations where data is stored on a device, it is encrypted and if the device is lost or stolen the data can be remotely wiped off the device. Another Citrix offering features a "lease" for the data, he said, which requires a user to sign in with a username and password to renew access to the data. If the lease isn't renewed within, say, 24 hours (perhaps because the device is lost or stolen) the lease expires and the data is deleted.
Like Enterasys, research firm IDC also predicts wider adoption of VDI going forward. It identifies Citrix as the only desktop infrastructure company that qualifies as a "leader" in its "Magic Quadrant" market analysis. In its "major players" quadrant, IDC includes Kaviza, Microsoft, Quest Software, VMware, and three other players. IDC expects that as the market evolves, VDI vendors will move beyond just delivering apps to desktops, delivering broader control of VDI systems in order to better coordinate management among desktops, mobile devices, and cloud services.
The evolution of virtualization has exposed complexities in application distribution and management that we couldn't have imagined in the days of disposable disk images. Our Application Virtualization report will help you get started. (Free registration required.)