Desktop Virtualization: 5 Popular Flavors, Explained

By Kevin Fogarty, CIO |  Virtualization, Citrix, desktop virtualization

One of the big questions in technology for the last three years has been how end users will adopt desktop virtualization. The answer, at least from some early adopters, seems to be "how won't we do it?"

A survey released by the Enterprise Management Associates in September found that companies with desktop virtualization projects in place or underway were almost all using more than one method of delivery, ranging from traditional terminal services to server-based applications accessed through a Web browser, according to Andi Mann, VP of research for the Boulder, Colo. consultancy.

[ For timely virtualization news and expert advice on strategy, see CIO.com's Virtualization Drilldown section. ]

A typical Citrix XenDesktop virtual desktop connection takes up between 56Kbit/sec and 100Kbit/sec of network bandwidth, and can satisfy the needs of many users by running shared operating systems and applications on back-end servers, according to George Thornton, network operations manager for Texas; Montgomery Independent School District, which standardized two of the three schools it opened this fall on Citrix virtual desktops.

His users who need more power for graphics-intensive or number-crunching applications can use the same thin-client hardware, but connect to a virtual machine on the server that supports only that one user, along with the additional memory or processing power required. That requires more like 2 megabits of network bandwidth per second, so Thornton kept those connections to a minimum, he says.

With all of the market competition around desktop virtualization, some users are confused about the pros and cons of the various options. Here's a snapshot of the major desktop virtualization approaches and of the types of situations for which they might be appropriate.

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