I am thinking that maybe 2013 will finally be the year of virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) enabled BYOD. This is not because of some fancy new feature in VMware View or Citrix XenDesktop but due to a new feature of Windows 8. I said a LONG TIME ago that Windows 8 should be a hypervisor based OS. I was close in my prediction. One of the great features of Windows 8 that hasn’t gotten much attention has been that it’s a Type 1 (bare metal) hypervisor. This means that basically, just like Hyper-V the hypervisor is native to the operating system. You can think VMware vSphere but with a GUI. A better comparison would be with XenClient which I wrote about here.
One of the major flaws in VDI has been its lack of support for offline support. The foundation of the traditional VDI solutions has been based on screen streaming technology which requires an always on network connection. This has limited the usefulness of the technology for mobile technologies such as laptops. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but a lot of laptops are sold into the enterprise. VMware and Citrix try to address the issue using two different approaches.
VMware adds what’s basically VMware player as part of the View Client. This allows a user to checkout an offline version of the virtual desktop. Citrix released a different type of VDI client called XenClient. XenClient is actually a bare metal hypervisor which also allows the user to check out a virtual desktop. View is actually a pretty decent solution but I haven’t performed much research on the success or failure with offline desktops in View. The largest drawback for XenClient has been its lacklustre hardware support. Not many software companies have the ability to rollout a general perpose desktop OS that can support virtually every laptop on the market.
This is where the fortunes of BYOD, Windows 8, VMware/Citrix can meet. Microsoft has done general purpose operating systems well, forever. With a built-in hypervisor, users and organizations can purchase virtually any Windows 8 Pro based laptop and have the native capability of supporting the enterprises VDI solution. The VDI vendors have the opportunity to add the much needed value add management layer and integrate their streaming solutions.
This could be a boon for BYOD. End users can just bring in their Windows 8 laptops to work, have a certificate installed, download their VDI image and their off in running. Administrators would have a wide range of options for providing the VDI instances. For thin clients the VDI session can run on the backend servers. For workstations and laptops that processing can be done at the local machine. This could strike a balance between performance/cost for hosting VDI sessions on expensive infrastructure such as enterprise class disk and server load. The management software could have checkpoints for the certificates so organizations can revoke rights to enterprise data when an employee is terminated.
I’m probably getting excited over nothing. 2013 will more than likely be another year where VDI is just around the corner. Or maybe ……