Going virtual

With the trend towards server and desktop virtualisation growing, resellers with the right skills will be called on to guide customers through a maze of choices.

Tags: Citrix Systems IncorporationClearCubeDimension DataNComputingVision Solutions (www.visionsolutions.com)
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Going virtual Noman Qadir, Regional Channel Manager Mena and Turkey, Citrix (ITP Images)
By  Piers Ford Published  March 24, 2013

With the trend towards server and desktop virtualisation growing, resellers with the right skills will be called on to guide customers through a maze of choices. Piers Ford reports.

It seems to be an accepted fact that in corporate computing, all roads are now leading to the cloud. The promise of an infrastructure-lite, fully integrated and virtualised model in which end-user profiles can be uploaded to any device, all applications are delivered as a service, centralised software licences keep costs to a minimum and the day-to-day headaches of maintaining complex PC environments has captured the IT manager’s imagination. And the channel should be spearheading the industry’s drive to bring the benefits of virtualisation to every desktop.

As always, the reality is a little more complicated than the marketing vision. Certainly, when it comes to the concept of the virtualised desktop infrastructure (VDI), there are signs that the market is ready for lift-off in the Middle East. But there are also warnings to heed. While the channel has a vital long-term educational role to play, which will deliver significant service revenue opportunities compared with the traditional PC replacement lifecycle, it would be a mistake to treat VDI as a blanket fix for all the logistical and management challenges of a legacy client/server architecture.

Mark Pilgrim, vice president EMEA at desktop virtualisation specialist NComputing, said across the Middle East, the wider public and private sectors are catching up with educational institutions – typically the trailblazers for adopting desktop virtualisation, with large numbers of users running the same software – in embracing the model. The security benefits of centralised data and applications management are particularly compelling.

“But close behind this factor is how important simplifying deployment and management of desktops is for IT managers across the region,” said Pilgrim. “Like their counterparts in other markets, Middle Eastern CIOs, IT directors and managers are realising that PC environments are no longer fit for purpose and that desktop virtualisation and VDI have both matured to a point where migrating to virtual desktops makes great sense.

“The channel is tapping into this enthusiasm for change as we are discovering, as we grow NComputing’s distribution infrastructure and partner base in the region. There’s a great deal of expertise and experience already on the ground, and this is helping to enable growth in desktop virtualisation and VDI in the Middle East.”

Citrix, another champion of the virtualised desktop, has also noted a shift in adoption trends. Noman Qadir, regional channel manager, MENA and Turkey at Citrix, said that while two years ago, VDI was still seen as the next big thing and sceptics were holding back, today the common realisation that traditional desktop management is painful, expensive and presents a major challenge for anyone trying to fulfil service level agreements (SLA), has helped to kick-start the market.

“From a customer perspective, having the agility and ability to make changes faster is a major benefit,” said Qadir. “For the channel, most players have contracts to refresh PCs every three to five years. But with the big push to Windows 8 and Office upgrades, there is a big opportunity to sell services and support around the VDI model.

Consolidation helps reduce the cost of the end-point device because if means you can update the applications and operating systems easily – but that is only possible with a flexible, virtualised infrastructure.”

The cost benefit of VDI is not, however, as clear cut as a quick glance might suggest. The business and technology advantages should never be used as a catch-all proposition by the channel. More than ever, according to industry insiders, it is up to the channel to get a much closer understanding of the customer’s business model, and to apply VDI only where it is a demonstrably more cost-effective solution.

“Many people think of VDI as the first step towards cloud computing, where you have ownership and control of virtual resources,” said Jim Zakzeski, vice president, Business Development and Marketing at ClearCube Technology, which specialises in zero client technology for physical and virtual PC devices. This approach allows customers to make a gradual move to VDI, with an emphasis on creating the right user experience for the purpose. ClearCube’s blade PCs in the data centre accessed by zero clients on the desktop even deliver the benefits of VDI – security, lower power consumption, smaller footprint – without going the whole hog to a virtualised architecture.

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