Guest Contributor: Simon Rust, VP of Technology, AppSense
With desktop virtualization expecting to achieve a revenue of $1.5 billion by 2014, an increasing number of financial institutions are investing a great amount of time and energy into this up and coming technology as they are beginning to see the value of centralized management to help dramatically lower their IT costs.
Typically financial institutions are still using Citrix XenApp 4, Windows 2003 Server and Windows XP, mainly because the critical business applications are not compatible with the new OSes. What I’m seeing among financial customers is that when it comes to desktop virtualization, Windows XP seems to be the OS of choice for the initiative – at least for the first phase.
As they try to get this technology up and running as quickly as possible, they are facing a number of challenges when it comes to fully adopting desktop virtualization because they are chained down to older processes directly linked to setting up the user’s environment. Their environments are large, stubbornly set in their ways, use complicated scripts and GPOs, and require extreme caution when making changes to the desktop environment so the user experience is not degraded in any way.
Current methods for “setting up” the user to allow them to use their applications are typically antiquated and rely on complicated scripts, application packaging methods that insert user settings into install packages before they are installed on the XenApp server image or desktop image(s). With this in mind, combined with the high amount of applications they need to have access to, desktop virtualization and application streaming initiatives are challenging and therefore slow to get through as already suggested. Complicated scripts are used to capture user settings and apply policy settings. Logon times are therefore slow because of this approach. The server image build and user environment setup is so ingrained that they have almost no choice but to transfer these methods to new ways to deliver the application(s) or an OS to the user, most likely making the user experience worse for the user on the new delivery platform.
The solution to the problem addressed above is user virtualization which takes the user component of the desktop, the user’s personality, decouples it from the OS and applications so the data can be managed independently. By doing this the user’s desktop environment is persistent irrespective of the desktop delivery method (physical, virtual, cloud, mixed, etc.) ensuring the user experience is seamless. A significant and increasing number of financial institutions have already adopted this technology and have seen not only happier users but have also seen a significant decrease in desktop management costs.
Additionally, financial institutions actually do have a high number of user-installed applications in their end-user computing environments. This also adds a significant burden on the delivery of on-demand desktops, since the requirement is there for applications that have not been packaged already by the IT team(s).
User virtualization technology will come to play a huge role in ensuring user-installed applications do not disrupt the user’s desktop experience. Stay tuned.