Client-side hypervisors encapsulate all software of a desktop -- OS, applications and data -- into a virtual machine, and allow it to be run locally on any computer, be it Mac, Windows or Linux. And, since the client-side hypervisor is run directly on users' computers and not in a far-off data center, it is always available, whether online or offline.
Hypervisors have thrown the neat notion of a monolithic physical desktop into flux. But where are we headed? To better understand this, three important developments need to be considered:
• The arrival of super devices. Personal devices are mobile, ever-more powerful, capacious, and incredibly affordable. Laptops with 4GB of RAM and 320GB of storage are now less than $500. Increasingly users will expect to use their personal devices for both work and play.
• The rise of the cloud app. Over the last few years Google search, Facebook and Salesforce have defined a new class of application that runs in the cloud. Users will need to access these cloud apps while also being able to use rich local applications like PowerPoint.
• Hot spots, cold spots. Network coverage has grown, but is far from ubiquitous, especially in areas of low population. Therefore, for the mobile professional, offline desktop access will continue to be mandatory.
Peering ahead five years, the future desktop will be independent of the device and users will always have it with them anywhere, anytime and on any of their super devices. The "desktop" will let users access cloud apps and also use rich local apps, whether online or offline, hot spot or not. It also will be resilient, automatically recovering from failures. And the best part is that it will be managed and secured by a provider: be it your IT department, your ISP, or even your phone company.
This future desktop can only be achieved by a client-side hypervisor. In this approach, your desktop provider defines and secures the virtual desktop image in the cloud. Users download the image to any device and run it on a client hypervisor locally, online or offline. Any work done in the image is kept separate from the personal host OS. If the virtual machine gets infected or damaged, it can be recovered by users themselves, even if they're offline.
Server-side hypervisors won't cut it. Here's why.
First, scalability. With client-side hypervisors, new users can be added with little impact. By contrast, the server-side approach comes with specific capacity limits and requires you to overbuild for peak capacity.
Second, reliability. A decentralized system is inherently more resilient than a centralized one. With client-side hypervisors, a failure may bring down one user, while with server-side hypervisors, a single incident can bring down the entire company.
Third, security. Unlike a server-side approach which only secures the data in the data center but is vulnerable when accessed from an unmanaged machine, client-side hypervisors provide a secure container on the device, protecting user and company data.
Fourth, cost. Client-side hypervisors are elegantly simple and, because they use commodity CPU and storage, are low cost. The server-side approach is bewilderingly complex and requires expensive servers, network upgrades, and SAN storage.
Finally, responsiveness. With a client-side hypervisor, users can access their cloud apps as well as rich interactive apps, such as Microsoft Office. The server-side approach, by contrast, transmits every keystroke and mouse click between the data center and the user, degrading the responsiveness and interactivity.
Though its proponents may say otherwise, a server-side approach offers neither the performance you need for rich, local apps, nor the simplicity of a true cloud app. In five years, when apps that need to run in the cloud are in fact purpose-built for the cloud, server-based desktops will be used only for very niche situations.
The rise in personal devices and cloud apps, and the reality of network conditions, are influencing the future desktop. And the future for desktops, contrary to the hype, will include very little of the server-side approach. Instead, the future desktop will be based on a client-side hypervisor, running both cloud apps as well as local productivity apps. And, when it arrives, it will make both users and administrators very satisfied.
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