March 30, 2010, 11:25 AM — Stereotypes abound regarding virtual desktops--especially the kind that put all the processing power on the back end and put a dumb terminal in front.
None of the stereotypes include dual-monitor thin-clients on the manufacturing floor of a fast-growing regional brewery, running a high-end brewhouse with graphics showing every stage of brewing, filtering and packaging and letting brewmasters control the process via touchscreens.
Boulevard Brewing Co. is just lucky, according to Tony Lux who, until he hired a full-time programmer this year, was the sole IT staff for a 91-person, 140,000-barrel-per-year Kansas City brewery and who revels in the job title Purveyor of Technology.
Though Lux didn't intend to use desktop virtualization -- and had never heard of the vendor he ended up hiring -- Lux finished the company's migration to an IT-controlled brewing system by plugging in virtual-client hardware from Pano Logic, whose claim to fame is to run native Windows applications and drivers and graphics entirely from the server without requiring any processing power on the client at all.
Pano Logic and competitors such as NComputing are attracting attention from some companies that would never have considered virtual desktops before, more because virtualization has become common enough to be one of the standard short-list options for hardware upgrades, according to Mark Bowker, infrastructure analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
"We see more interest in VDI when security is the issue or when people say compliance is the issue that lets them sleep at night," Bowker says. "There are a lot of people looking at it on an application by application basis, though."
Customers understand the difference between computing hardware and computing resources and are perfectly happy to shift to virtual editions of one or the other if the performance and price are right, agrees Chris Wolf of the Burton Group.
There are enough thin-client implementations available that it's not hard to match one to a set of requirements, though there's no guarantee they'll work better than traditional versions, Wolf says.
Boulevard Brewing did move almost all its data center applications onto VMware ESX virtual servers, but it wasn't interested in virtual desktops any more than it was in new and unproven brewing technology, Lux says.
A Physical Move and a Virtual One