One of the most expensive budget items in IT is the need to support a full-blown operating system on each and every desktop PC. Because every application installed on a given desktop can have a unique, unanticipated effect on that one device, the havoc that can be unleashed across the whole of the enterprise can sprout in an almost random, chaotic fashion.
Prior to virtualization, IT departments used to deal with the same type of problems with enterprise servers. Then, companies started to replace local servers with cloud-based virtual servers, dramatically reducing IT support costs. It was hard to imagine that this success could be replicated on the desktop PC side, but new technologies are starting to emerge showing that such a shift is possible.
A number of companies are demonstrating that wide-scale virtualization is possible on the desktop. This observation is why GigaOm’s Kevin Toefel recently said, “The PC you buy in three years may not be a PC.” In other words, the “PC” on your desk might simply run Android and then connect to a remote emulation of a virtualized PC in the cloud. Instead of deploying hundreds or thousands of PCs in the field, corporations will run virtual PCs in a data center that will be accessed from myriad low-cost and cheap-to-maintain devices (networked terminals, tablets, and smartphones).
The implications for enterprise networks are profound. As I have said many times in the past, latency will be the Holy Grail of future enterprise networks, not bandwidth. For example, OnLive’s product demo in the virtual PC space looks impressive, because it brings all the “touch” interface features you would expect on a tablet to a remote desktop app. Citrix also has both an iOS and Android version of gotomypc that allows you to remotely access the real desktop PC at your office. Either way, the days of toting your laptop back and forth to the office may be numbered.