This Year, The Desktop; Next Year, The Cloud

This year the desktop ruled. Desktops will continue to lead the trends in 2011, but in a direction no one would ever have imagined two years ago.

Peter Rawlinson, Vice president of marketing, AppSense

Looking back at 2010, we heard a lot of buzz words. Among the most popular were cloud computing and virtualization. It's no surprise that those technologies topped my list – though not because (in one case) they were widely adopted. One trend was the subject of much speculation last year – would IT make the move to a new desktop operating system?

What do all these trends have in common? They all affect the desktop. Let's take a closer look.

2010 Trend #1: The year of desktop virtualization

It was obvious at the end of 2009 that 2010 would be the year desktop virtualization burst onto the scene. I guess you could compare it to where cloud computing is now. Gartner estimates that approximately 15 percent of current worldwide traditional professional desktop PCs will migrate to hosted virtual desktops (HVDs) by 2014, equal to about 66 million connected devices.

As desktop virtualization took off, enterprises became eager to adopt solutions that could help ease IT management burdens and make the transition from physical to virtual PCs seamless for users. Large vendors such as Citrix and VMware made their names in the space and continued to build their desktop virtualization product portfolios.

What seems to be much more prevalent than the wholesale move to hosted virtual desktops is the emergence of a blended or mixed desktop environment, consisting of combinations of physical and virtual delivery mechanisms. Together with the introduction of a myriad of accessing devices into the workforce, the desktop is set to become quite a heterogeneous environment in 2011.

2010 Trend #2: Windows 7 is the OS that Vista should have been

Although Windows 7 was released late in 2009, the majority of adoption occurred in 2010. Organizations were hesitant about the new operating system due to the problems with Vista. Even as we are here at the end of 2010, Windows 7 is still showing a lot of traction and critics have almost gone silent.

A year after its launch, Windows Vista had less than 10 percent adoption, while Windows 7 is actually double that, with Windows 7 clearly demonstrating itself to be the platform that Windows Vista should have been. Possibly even more surprising than Windows 7's speedier adoption is its dominance in desktop virtualization projects. Most current desktop virtualization projects are using Windows 7, which enforces the belief that Windows 7 is the way forward and a significant driver of desktop virtualization.

2010 Trend #3: Cloud computing is still in the evaluation phase

This year proved to be the testing period for the cloud. Although we saw a few significant use cases, most enterprises were testing small cloud environments rather than diving right in. The benefits the cloud has to offer are obvious, so it is only a matter of time until enterprises begin to build their own private clouds to reduce cost and increase flexibility. Cloud in 2010 was primarily in the evaluation phase, making 2011 ripe for cloud's deployment phase.

A recent survey found that 96 percent of IT decision makers are confident that cloud computing is ready for the enterprise, more so than in 2009, and that "7 percent of IT decision makers said they use or are planning to use enterprise-class cloud computing solutions within the next two years."

The Year Ahead

Looking ahead to 2011, will desktops continue to lead the trends? My answer is yes, though it's in a direction we would never have imagined two years ago.

2011 Prediction #1: The adoption of component-based desktops

The desktop is changing, there is no denying that. It is moving from a monolithic, device-tied model to a more agile, lower-cost, component-based model. The components of this new model are the operating system (OS), applications, and the user. Organizations will move to a mixed-desktop environment, such as:

  • Physical desktops with virtualized/streamed applications
  • Physical desktops with published applications
  • Virtual desktops with virtualized/streamed applications
  • Offline virtual desktops
  • Published desktops with virtualized/streamed applications
  • Cloud-delivered desktops and applications

In 2011, these "combined" desktop environments will become prevalent in enterprises around the globe because they should reduce desktop management costs and provide a more agile working environment for users. As we know, user satisfaction is the most important aspect of the desktop. User virtualization will prove to be crucial in enabling user personalization and corporate policy settings to be applied dynamically to any desktop, regardless of the components it is made from or how they are delivered. This will ensure user adoption from these lower-cost, mixed-desktop environments.

2011 Prediction #2: User migration

User virtualization will come into the forefront of the "migration" issue as enterprises recognize that, with this technology, there is no longer a need to migrate users between Windows platforms. Rather the user is migrated from the desktop to a user virtualization platform, where their "personality" is then accessible by multiple platforms. There really is no need to migrate users again. Enterprises will need a solution that allows users to roam seamlessly between physical and virtual desktops and applications without impacting the user experience.

2011 Prediction #3: More control over the desktop is needed as the number of accessing devices increases

As users continue to introduce new accessing devices (e.g., iPad, Google phone, Android) that are becoming increasingly diverse in role and location, ensuring desktop control while maintaining a flexible working environment is essential. New devices are being introduced often and they're increasingly being used for both personal and business purposes.

IT departments will need to ensure corporate compliance and a productive work environment for all employees across an increasing number of devices.

Peter Rawlinson is the vice president of marketing at AppSense, a firm that specializes in user virtualization solutions. You can contact the author at peter.rawlinson@appsense.com