Disclaimer: Gartner analysts use their blogs to share their personal views and opinions on subjects close to their hearts.
Those that know me know that I’ve worked on a virtual desktop as my primary desktop for the past couple of years. I believe very firmly that if you are going to talk about a certain topic, you must live that topic. I’ve gone through many of the same pains that others have gone through but after all this time, I can say that I’m very positive on where the technology is now, and what I see coming down the pipe.
I realize that a lot of people out there speak very negatively about virtual desktops, and for good reason, from a technical stand point virtual desktops are often used where other technologies like Server Based Computing (SBC) could do the job just as easily and at less expense. While these people speak negatively on the topic the fact of the matter is virtual desktops are a rapid growing market. In fact Gartner predicts 8-10% market penetration by 2015; those are huge numbers. Yet, even with this rise of virtual desktops there are still a lot of naysayers out there and I think I’ve figured out the root of why they are so negative: they are applying traditional IT methodology at a time when we are breaking from traditional IT practices.
I believe firmly that IT is a service. I’ve been a manager for a good part of my career and I stress that every user is a client and that as an IT department we need to treat our clients as if they are the reasons we get our paychecks: because the fact is they are! This means we don’t treat them as a number, but as an individual. When possible we give these users more than just what they need, rather we try to deliver on what they want. I feel that if the typical IT person were to run the company’s cafeteria it would only serve water and saltines, the mentality being that if that is enough for an employee to survive off of, then they’ve met their goal. I for one believe that I’m a unique person, and although I work at a company with 5000+ employees, I believe I have unique wants and needs. An IT department that tries to treat me as just a number doesn’t understand me, doesn’t understand my needs, and as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t value me as an employee.
An employee is valuable. I’ve spent the majority of my life as a consultant or a manager, or both; and I know the value of an employee. I know that giving in on small policies, such as allowing a user to put a picture of their child on their desktop wallpaper, affects morale. I’ve learned some of my best lessons by listening to my users instead of giving the user what I think is best for them. In my opinion, this is something that a unique desktop, such as a virtual desktop, gives to an employee. A sense of ownership, a sense of “this is your computer” and you can connect to that computer anywhere you want to work, on any device you want to work on. This empowerment of the employee gives them a sense that IT is listening to what they want, and in essence gets IT out of the way and lets the user work the way they want to work.
I believe that virtual desktops are gaining traction not because they are the best technical choice, in many use cases they aren’t, but because virtual desktops bring benefits to the employee that are hard to measure. SBC can deliver, and under a great many use cases I fully support SBC. Virtual desktops may be over used from a technical stand point, but primarily I believe they are over used because businesses are finding value that they can’t measure and just feel virtual desktops are a better fit due to the company culture.
From everything I’ve seen at Gartner thus far, virtual desktops are wildly popular and although many of these companies could be saving money using a different technology they have chosen to use a technology that many users embrace, not despise. I think these companies see the value in the technology, and even more so, see the value in the employee, and how much easier it is to deploy a solution that employees embrace.
What do you think?
Follow me on Twitter: @gunnarwb