In the Cisco Connected World Report, a survey of 1,300 IT decision makers worldwide found that 27% of companies will make desktop virtualization an important initiative over the next three years. Mobile access to information for employees will be a bigger priority, with 33% of companies making it a key initiative. Cisco also surveyed 1,300 workers, finding that three out of five employees believe they don't need to be in the office to be productive, but that IT policies may be preventing true mobility.
Desktop virtualization, at least the server-hosted model, requires a strong data center infrastructure and a shift in IT administrator mindset, "from managing a fleet of physical endpoints to managing the virtual machine that lives on the server," says IDC analyst Ian Song.
Client hypervisors, the key to enabling a bring-your-own-PC model, are less mature than server-hosted desktops, and many enterprises are wary of deploying them right now, says Gartner analyst Chris Wolf. IT shops and users alike are looking for a better security model for separating work and personal data and applications.
"That's a bit of a dicey area," Wolf says. "If I [as an employee] own the system, I don't want the company scanning all my personal information. There's a fine line between what the user is comfortable with and what the organization is comfortable with." Still, a combination of the client-hosted model and server-hosted desktops may be necessary for all types of users to gain desktop access on any device they want.
Desktop in the cloud
If desktop virtualization seems dicey, how about "desktops" that exist only in the cloud? Vendors such as Desktone are marketing "cloud-hosted desktops," and IBM is teaming up with Linux vendors and other partners to offer Microsoft-alternative desktops through Web-based cloud services.
And then there is Google. Although Gmail has captured less than 1% of the enterprise e-mail market, according to Gartner, Google has lured several million small businesses to its Google Apps suite of e-mail and productivity tools, and is now teaming up with hardware vendors to sell netbooks based on the upcoming Chrome OS.