Desktop virtualization of all flavors can also provide enhanced IT management capabilities. The ability to move a user's application, data and settings to a new computer in case of hardware failure or PC upgrade, centralized patching, disaster recovery, segregation of personal and work data, and enforcement of security policies are among the potential benefits.
IT vendors like VMware, Citrix, Parallels and Microsoft, and a raft of upstarts, are selling numerous types of virtual desktop technologies.
Start-up MokaFive, for example, offers a centralized management suite that integrates with client-based hypervisors of the customer's choice. Bring-your-own-PC models are enabled under this scenario, because an employee-owned computer can run a work environment in a secure, virtual container, says MokaFive CEO Dale Fuller.
Fuller, who was GM of Apple's PowerBook division in 1995 and 1996, says it used to be that "Getting Apple into the enterprise was very difficult because Windows was the de facto standard." But those barriers are breaking down and virtual desktops will obliterate them, he says. Fuller's long-term vision is for a "self-healing computer environment" in which employees can use any device they'd like.
An IT shop "can't manage the 14 new devices coming out tomorrow, so you want to look at virtualization as a way you can standardize," Fuller says. "As long as virtualization works on that machine, I'm fine, because I'm only managing the virtual part of the machine." In other words, a virtual workspace can be carved out on an employee's home computer, creating a secure connection to the corporate data center that can't be compromised by the personal portions of the computer.
Beyond extending corporate security policies to home machines, MokaFive's larger goal is to merge the benefits of the client hypervisor and server-hosted models, letting users install whichever operating system suits their needs and work online or offline, while giving IT the means to push out patches, enforce policies and perform other desktop management tasks from a central location. By combining access to work and personal applications on one device, MokaFive and other virtual desktop technologies might also help consumers avoid being overwhelmed by the feeling of having too many devices..