Thursday, September 29, 2011

VDI: it's about people

After participating in analyst events with the world’s leading VDI vendors (AppSense, Citrix, VMware) , it is increasingly apparent that the marketing of virtual desktops needs to get personal and emotional in a hurry if the industry expects to see explosive growth. For all of the VDI hype and messages of IT control, there are precious few deployments of more than 1000 seats. One possible reason is that end-users do not see what VDI does for them that cannot be easily done with the present physical approach of applications installed on laptops. Virtualization vendors trumpet the IT benefits while marketing to server teams - VDI is doomed to niche uses unless vendors can lead people to clamor for the new capabilities introduced by the technology.

Vendor marketing messaging and positioning targets IT decision makers with promises of enhancing data security, controlling application environments, saving operational expenses, and enabling business agility for existing applications. However, when it comes to re-inventing user experiences the user organizations participate in endpoint architecture decisions and it is personal demand for new capabilities that is going to drive explosive growth in virtualization at the endpoint.

One good start will be to shift the words virtual desktop infrastructure to the fine print of the back page of all market-oriented material. There is not one word in VDI that a user really wants: few people are comfortable with their understanding of anything virtual, a desktop is a necessary evil only to run desired programs, and do users rise to the edge of their seats when the conversation turns to infrastructure? There is amazing technology and potential in virtualization that is buried under IT-oriented technical jargon. It is critical that vendors tap into key user emotions related to making their computing lives easier. A few examples may be:

Imagine having business and personal applications at your fingertips not matter where you are or what computer you’re using – without painful software installations or generic browser user interfaces. You do not need the frustration of being unproductive on the road because you forgot to pre-install software, or you had to borrow a computer that doesn’t have your presentation on it. VDI can provide you access to more exciting programs at your fingertips than you can possibly install yourself.

Imagine relief from not getting upset waiting while Windows installs important updates and reboots your machine just when you’re ready to use your computer. System and application software is maintained by IT in the data center, meaning the most up to date versions are ready to run – before you need them! No more waiting like a second citizen while your computer manages itself; no more playing “IT” to configure security software or applications.

Imagine the freedom of not having to lug a laptop home from the office every day, and back again. There have to be better ways to exercise your upper body and back muscles. There is no need to include laptops, power cords and heavy-weight knapsacks in every commute. Virtualization allows you to run business applications – including Microsoft Office – on home computers, tablets, or mobile devices without having to install application software.

It is rare to find organizations that plan to be entirely VDI hosted in the data center - laptops are not going away anytime soon and even the early adopters seem to only envision a 20% penetration. For virtualization at the endpoint to move forward significantly, vendors need to find and promote visions of the technology that provide benefits that are not easily achieved in physical endpoints or through browsers. The present path of marketing solely IT benefits will result in organizations maintaining about 80% of their endpoints as physical desktop and laptop systems, VDI will be an additive expense, and the great opportunity to impact user lifestyles with virtualization will be lost. It is about people – let’s look for ways for virtualization to change user experiences.

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