And because both vendors offer versions of their virtual desktop software on a variety of smartphones, tablets and other smart devices, it offers a path for road warriors to connect on their preferred device while on the go. In fact, when it launched last year, the ability to run a Windows 7 desktop on the iPad was touted as one of the "killer apps" for the tablet computer, at least in the business world.
The technology has come a long way from the clunky remote desktop capabilities of days of old. Both major desktop virtualization players (Citrix and VMware) now tout the ability to run smooth high-definition videos and other multimedia-heavy applications from hosted desktops on a variety of devices.
On-premise vs. Cloud
Like most IT issues today, there are choices in how small businesses want to consume virtual desktops. Citrix and Kaviza offer a more traditional "on-premise" model for desktop virtualization, while there are a growing number of options for cloud-based virtual desktops. Also at Synergy, hosting giant Rackspace announced plans to offer a simplified path to desktop virtualization via hosted Citrix virtual desktops.
Putting any IT workload in the cloud is a very individual, even personal issue, for many businesses. Like anything else, you have to consider cost, scalability, availability and security of cloud deployments against on-premise, as well as your own organization's needs and work patterns to make the right decision. For example, if you're looking at VDI to keep your users connected to their desktops while they're out of the office, a hosted solution might offer greater value than on-premise, while companies in a highly-regulated industry like healthcare or a highly-secretive one like financial services might prefer to leave things in-house.
There are even some solutions that cross the boundaries of on-premise and cloud. IBM earlier this year introduced its Virtual Desktop for Smart Business solution, which can be offered by Big Blue's channel partners either hosted by the partner or on a customer's own hardware.
Is It For You?
There are still too many "X" factors--such as how mobile your business is, how connected your users are, how much computing horsepower your users need to do the job, and more--to offer one-size-fits-all advice on whether desktop virtualization makes sense for your business.