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Desktop Virtualization as a Viable XP Migration Option

While virtual desktops represent a small niche of the enterprise client system universe, they're a reasonable option for organizations with PCs still running Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. Unless you've been hiding under a rock, Windows XP will shortly lose official support from Microsoft.

As I reported earlier this month, a survey of Redmond magazine readers found that 23 percent will continue to run their Windows XP-based systems after Microsoft releases the final patch for the OS on April 8. And while the survey also showed an overwhelming 85 percent will deploy Windows 7-based PCs and 35 percent will depoly systems running Windows 8 (multiple responses were permitted), 9 percent said they are looking to virtual desktops. That may include some form of VDI or desktop as a service (DaaS).

Evolve IP, a managed services provider that offers its own hosted DaaS offering based on VMware Horizon View, said its own survey showed that 63 percent will use virtual desktops for at least a portion of their employees. The VDI as a service is hosted in its own cloud where customers can also host their Active Directory instances to manage users. "It's a good mix for the IT department who needs control, but it's also good because it's not an all-in philosophy," said Scott Kinka, Evolve IP's CTO.

There are a number of solutions from the likes of AppSense, Citrix, Dell/Wyse, HP, NComputing and VMware. Of course, Microsoft's own Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and AppV solutions are all viable options as well, either via an MSP or hosted internally. Here's a look at a number of options:

  • AppSense: Using DesktopNow and DataNow, IT can bring together related persona and data to centralize and stream the components to a new desktop. "We don't modify, we just lock down and migrate the settings and other things relative to the application," said Jon Rolls, AppSense vice president of product management."

  • Citrix: With the company's XenDesktop, IT can virtualize Internet Explorer 6 (which can't run on newer operating systems) in a virtual desktop. Likewise, apps that cannot be updated to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 can run in virtual Windows XP instances.

  • NComputing: The supplier of virtual desktop solutions offers its Desktop and Application Virtualization platform for small- and mid-sized business looking for more of a turnkey type offering. The company plans to further simplify the delivery of virtual solutions with the planned release of its new oneSpace client virtualization platform. The company describes it as a workspace for IT to securely deliver apps and files in BYOD scenarios to any device including iPads and Android-based tablets. "Users are getting full-featured versions of their Windows applications but we've done our own optimization to allow those apps to be mobile- and touch-friendly," said NComputing's senior director of marketing Brian Duckering. "Instead of using the Windows Explorer experience, we integrated it and unified it so it's Dropbox- like." It's due to hit private beta this spring.

  • Microsoft: Just last week Microsoft took a step toward making it easier for IT to deploy VDI scenarios based on its Remote Desktop Services. Microsoft released the preview of its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Starter Kit 1.0. As Redmond's Kurt Mackie reported, Microsoft is billing it as something that should not be used for production environments. It's just for testing purposes. The kit "complements" the management console and wizards used with the RDS server role of Windows Server 2012 R2. It comes with apps including Calculator and WordPad for testing virtual desktop access scenarios. The finished Starter Kit product is scheduled for release in the second quarter of this year and the preview is available for download now. Organizations can also pair Microsoft's RD Gateway with Windows Server 2012 to deploy VDI, as explained in a recent article.

Desktop as a Service
This week Amazon Web Services released its WorkSpaces DaaS offering. Amazon first disclosed plans to release WorkSpaces at its re:Invent conference  in November at its customer and partner conference in Las Vegas. The service will be available with one or two virtual CPUs with either 3.75 or 7.5 GB of RAM and 50 to100 GB of storage. Per-user pricing ranges from $35 to $75 for each WorkSpace per month. Organizations can integrate the new service with Active Directory.

A wide variety of use cases were tested, from corporate desktops to engineering workstations, said AWS evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post this week. Barr identified two early testers, Peet's Coffee & Tea and ERP supplier WorkWise. The company also added a new feature called Amazon WorkSpaces Sync. "The Sync client continuously, automatically and securely backs up the documents that you create or edit in a WorkSpace to Amazon S3," Barr said. "You can also install the Sync client on existing client computers (PC or Mac) in order to have access to your data regardless of the environment that you are using."

Google and VMware are also making a big DaaS push. As I reported earlier this month, the two companies teamed up to enable Google Chromebooks to work with VMware's Horizon View offerings.

Things could get really interesting if Microsoft offers its own DaaS service.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/28/2014 at 11:28 AM


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