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Bunging apps, files into virtual desktops ain't worth it - Gartner

Server and network costs annihilate cash savings

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The financial arguments for turning PCs into glorified remote terminals just don't stack up, says a Gartner bod.

The bean counter estimates "virtual hosted desktops" - which shift applications and file storage into a centralised farm of servers - will form a market of 80 million units worldwide by 2016. This is a four-fold increase on today's numbers, but that figure is just eight per cent of the total installed base of the professional PC market.

"The total cost of ownership for virtual hosted desktops (VHD) was less than ten per cent lower than for standard deployments," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.

Once customers have blown cash on upgrading servers, storage, networks in preparation for VHD, the savings aren't meaningful, especially when considering the upheaval of desktop policies and procedures.

"This is not a simple shift from thick to thin," said Atwal.

For this reason Gartner reckons the resellers should persuade customers to migrate based on the centralisation of data and security.

Atwal said early adopters include IT buyers in the healthcare, finance and certain government verticals. He claimed that customers are "streaming certain applications rather than the whole desktop experience" including centralising HR and salary software.

Sam Routledge, solutions director at Softcat, said he "broadly" agreed with the analyst's finding:"I'd say the cost of deploying virtual desktops is roughly equitable to deploying standard desktops in terms of capital expenditure."

He claimed operational savings from a management perspective could be achieved, but added the arguments for VHDs centred on "flexibility and fluidity of the work environment".

A number of guinea pig customers "typically struggled" to get financial payback from VHD, said Rhys Sharp, an independent consultant and former CTO at SCC.

"As VHD rolls in scale, organisations need expensive equipment at the back-end to improve the user experience," he said before highlighting a benefit of VHD: the ability to deploy an employee's desktop applications and files more or less anywhere there's a working network connection.

"Putting a well-managed desktop in the data centre will not reduce the total cost of ownership, but it will help a company improve productivity or change a business function such as mobilising the workforce," Sharp said. ®

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