How Merrill Lynch Plans To Virtualize Half Its Desktops - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud // Software as a Service
10:45 AM
Connect Directly

How Merrill Lynch Plans To Virtualize Half Its Desktops

It's a big bet on emerging technology that's driven by IT management cost savings.

"Once the world figures this stuff out, this is going to be a huge change to the corporate landscape," Merrill Lynch chief architect Jeff Birnbaum predicts.

The stuff Birnbaum's talking about is "stateless" desktop virtualization, which promises cost savings from delivering the software that PCs need over a network using one-off virtual machines spun up in the data center. That should make it much cheaper to manage, since IT departments can change, say, a setting on the Windows operating system once, and all employees get the change as soon as they access their virtual desktops, rather than IT having to push the change to tens of thousands of PCs.

Birnbaum wants out of desktop PC management

Birnbaum wants out of desktop PC management

Desktop virtualization is emerging technology where the practical options for large-scale adoption are just starting to take shape, so most IT leadership teams aren't sure how big a part it will play in their IT strategies. Merrill Lynch is way past wait-and-see. It plans to virtualize 10% of its 63,000 employees' desktops by year's end, and as many as half within five years, including those of many mobile workers. That's a huge bet that desktop virtualization is ready for massive scale and Wall Street's demanding performance standards.

Merrill Lynch is making this IT strategy bet in a brutal business environment, with the company having written down about $30 billion during the mortgage meltdown and posting operating losses the past three quarters. To Birnbaum, this economy makes stateless desktop virtualization more appealing because of the potential for "radically" lower operating expenses, saving about 50% on the total cost of owning and managing PCs and servers. "The big win is to get out of desktop management across the board," he says.

InformationWeek Reports

There's big risk, too. The biggest is a greatly increased reliance on data center uptime. Birnbaum notes Merrill Lynch will be living the 1980s Sun Microsystems adage that the network is the computer. "If the data center goes down, you can't run your desktop," he says. But it's not like the network is optional today, given the lifelines that are e-mail and electronic trading.

Companies must pay more attention to the unique risks of virtual environments.
Another risk is that software as a service will provide a cheaper way to go virtual, without the huge data center investment. Clear Channel, for example, decided against desktop virtualization because so many of its key applications are now Web-based. "We don't have that big of a deal with desktops out in the field," says Curt Smith, a solutions architect for the media company.

It's a big investment. Desktop virtualization can run more than $900 per employee in up-front costs for new servers, storage, network bandwidth, virtualization and Windows licenses, and thin-client hardware, estimates Forrester Research analyst Natalie Lambert. "It might take a couple of years to recoup that investment," Lambert says. "There are a lot of moving pieces."

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
1 of 3
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

Becoming a Self-Taught Cybersecurity Pro
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  6/9/2021
Ancestry's DevOps Strategy to Control Its CI/CD Pipeline
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  6/4/2021
IT Leadership: 10 Ways to Unleash Enterprise Innovation
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  6/8/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Planning Your Digital Transformation Roadmap
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
Flash Poll