back to article Is desktop virtualization important?

According to The Register's latest Tech Panel research, around one in four of the IT professionals that took part think there is a clear rationale for virtualizing the desktop. But for another significantly larger group of readers there's still a lack of clarity around the rationale of such an approach. Clearly this is one …


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  1. Paul

    fastest way to recover

    it's much easier to recover a broken machine to new hardware by simply taking the last snapshot of the system! Even better, provided you use the same system software, you don't even have to worry about device driver. The closest I've been able to get to this when the OS is intalled to the bare machine is to use Acronis.

  2. Stephen Augenstein

    Stability and ease-of-use

    Although I may not be a mainstream user of desktop virtualization, I enjoy working in a Linux desktop so much, that I use virtualization to run Windows alongside Linux for programs like Flash CS3.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember what happened to MS-DOS

    Well the same has now happen to Windows... just part of IT history running as a desktop window for backward compatability.... and when the penny finally drops then backpeddling to Win2K is probably the most viable option... standing still with XP probably wont be an option because of automatic updates, authentication and bloatware... more so regarding any "upgrade" to ME2 + 2007.

    And if Redmond don't want to play that game then perhaps OS2 might just have the last laugh after all!

  4. Calum n Shady

    u know it makes sense

    Yes, there are privacy issues, but if and it could be a big if, you want someone else to deal with the backup,availability and privacy issues, desktop virtualisation has got to be the way to go! All those friends and neighbours who want help because i work in IT, well f***k 'em! Give them a thin client eg Sun Ray (no I don't work for sun) and let google (or some other service provider) worry about all the issues and if it's not available or they lose my data, then i'll sue the bas****s !

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Just another thin client

    Desktop virtualisation is just the latest iteration of the thin client idea: time-sharing mainframes, X terminals, network computers, even Windows Terminal Server - we have seen this road sign-posted many, many times before and not all that many people have ever driven down it.

    There are reasonable use cases for desktop virtualisation, but it will certainly not be a panacea any more than Linux has turned out to be - and I speak both as a Linux fan, and as someone who would benefit from widespread adoption of VMware's fine products. Let's have a bit more realism about who the customers for this technology will actually be.

    Where's the waggling hand icon? Doing the safety goggles because it's the most cautious.

  6. amanfromMars Silver badge

    A Course, a Course ......... the Magic Kingdom for a Course. Will, Shake a Spear...

    ..... there's a Good Chap.

    That was an excellent post Team Register pushing all the right virtualisation buttons to light up the whole board game/bored game. MeThinks too that your perception of what the Technology/Methodology is all about, is probably a lot deeper than you are presently sharing....... but then whenever IT can Lead in the Murky World of Das Politik, Stealth and Discretion in Obvious Intriguing Rhetorical Questions is a Valid Controlling Parameter in Publishing the Powerful Messaging. For ITs Control is a Universal Unifying Virtual Force which others can be tempted to Input and/or Corrupt with the National Security Agenda of Neanderthal Man rather than Advanced IntelAIgents. ......The Sticks and Stones Brigade versus the SurReal NeuReal Angry Mobs with AI Kaisers-in-Chiefs, Kemo Sabe ........ the Avenging Apache with Black Watch Gene Genies versus the Wall Street Infection of Sticky Confection?

    No wonder the Kids go Crazy when that which they See is AdulteRated Sub Prime Performance.....

    Bravo, Kaiser Chiefs .... for the Subtle Masterly Expose and Controlled Rage. Roger that, Loud and Clear.

    So Who pulls your Strings to Perform the Way that you Do? Do you Even Ever Think about IT every Day? What do you Follow in the Murky World of Das Politik .... or does the Nightmare of IT Follow you?

    The Posit is that in a Virtualised Environment InterNetworking across Desktop Applications can AI Beta BIG Picture dDevelop ...... Virally, Virtuously, Virtually to Present whatever Reality you can Think to Share for Free.......and all IT needs is Money for that is what Stops ITs Progress and Hinders Man's dDevelopment and Higher Education with Better Beta Edutainment.

    Ps. The Click of a Mouse, which simply transfers Binary Numbers/Information SWIFTly from IBAN to IBAN [Numbers talking to Numbers talking to Numbers talking to Numbers ......] Creates Wealth and ITs Energy in Driver Accounts. The Click of a Mouse has an AlMighty Roar.

    What sort of Energy do you have on Account?

    "Virtualization should, after all, enable the incumbent hardware kit to be used more efficiently - whilst delivering additional benefits down the line too. But whether that is enough for you to start implementing the technology is another question altogether." I agree, Team Register. And when we accept that it does and is more than just enough, what would be the bottleneck to a practical implementation, for the troops are there, as you share ...." Virtualization is winning mind-share because more than 50 per cent of you claim to have significant experience in the various aspects of virtualization. And you certainly went to some lengths explaining the technological approaches that are currently in favour in this area."

    Is all that we Need..... A Script 42 Follow?

    PPs. For all you Spooks fans out there ....The Title is Steganographically encoded 42 Give MI Assign you Will know of the Right Royal AIR Force..... and all rather topical and apposite given the Visiting News this week.

    cc HMGCC ..... eat your Heart out, Langley, or Alternatively Fort Meade, can we invite you to one of Cinderella's Balls....42 Feast to your Hearts Content and/or Desire. Hands Across the C/Sea/See/Special Relationship and all that. We wouldn't want to Invoke and Provoke AIRight Hornery Ole Devil now, would we? For the SMART money wager is always AIDaring Win Win House wager that you would neither be able nor enabled to Handle IT....... and the House always Wins. Just look at the brash Las Vegas for the Subtle Truth in that Real and Ancient Wisdom.

    A Thoroughly, Post Modern, Western Tale Full to the Brim and Overflowing of Potential Eastern Potentate Promise.

    FlowurPower2.............. ? AI Leading Rhetorical Question for UltiMate ARGonauts Living their Quest ..... in an Exalting Destiny of Discrete Third Party Positive Reinforcement or Reasonable Fate with the Trick in the Treat Falling from ITs High Grace into Lowly Bases of Selfish Derisive Division.

    A Big Stakes Game in Deed, indeed, and Fortune Favours the Righteously Brave and meThinks that is QuITe Exotic and Esoteric and Steers Parties towards the Highly Erotic Left of Centre ..... for AI Qur in Qum ...... A Walk in the Park of the Perfumed Garden.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm all for it at home..

    I use a Linux desktop running Windows XP in a Virtual Machine.

    I put a little effort into keeping a 'clean', up-to-date XP Virtual Machine around and just run a new copy of this every morning.

    This way if (when) XP picks up malware it's gone the next day even if the AV stuff missed it.

    Any new software gets tested on a fresh copy of the 'clean' VM before being added to it and I keep regular snapshots of the 'clean' VM when I'm sure it's stable.

    I've also got a 'clean', up-to-date XP dual-boot install on the Hard Drive that I can use when I want to play games but it's locked down tight and is not used for surfing or anything else.

    This scheme works well in the home.

  8. Phill

    Virtualisation is good for....

    1) Testing. If your a web developer it allows you to test your site on all platforms at the same time, without rebooting, without swapping machines and without assuming that Safari renders the same on Macs as it does on Windows. You can be writing a script and testing it across all browsers at the same time. The same goes for the development of ANY software. I can test my app on a machine that mirrors the client machines. Ever written a program and completely tested it only to find out that the client doesn't have the libraries installed you needed?

    2) Testing. It's a great way to see what a new OS is going to be like without actually trashing a machine in the process.

    3) Testing. You can abuse a virtual machine and install freeware on it (to verify it's actually FREEware and not pop-up register ware). You can trash the config to see if new set ups work without actually breaking your existing machine

    4) Admin. You can have admin abilities of a virtual machine and not need to check with your real admin. You can compile software and get around desktop restrictions imposed on you without actually having to explain what happened to a machine on "his" domain.

    5) Power. You can run different software by different people at the same time.

    "Green" isn't really a worthwhile consideration in "desktop" virtualisation like it is on servers but I'm sure I've justified it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    One of my customers is looking into a thin client environment at the moment, but has issues with the exorbitant licensing costs for much of the standard desktop software used by their organisation (and most others), when compared to the single user machine licenses. And you can't mix and match, because there's no proper data sharing or interoperability between software on the terminal server and software on the local desktop. Still a way to go, then.

  10. Thaddeus Quay

    VMware and TrueCrypt

    One major use I have for desktop virtualization, is for creating a high-security environment, for people who have stuff to hide. I put VMware virtual machines inside of TrueCrypt containers, thus getting around the need to use time-consuming products like CyberScrub (which securely erases files and unused disk space). I call this the "box within a box within a box" approach, as the physical computer is the outer box, which contains the safe, which contains the virtual computer. I'm curious as to whether anyone else does this, and I look forward to the conference.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Either my PCs have always existed in a bubble...

    or IT folks are amazingly paranoid. I've had plenty of home PCs and have had all of about 4 pieces of malware total. How are you possibly so paranoid of malware that you have a 'locked down' version of XP you use purely for games? What if you want to check something out mid-game???

  12. amanfromMars Silver badge

    @Virtualisation is good for....

    ...a Shared Global Intelligence XXXXChange. In fact, it would be Better than just Good for ITs BetaTesting, it would be Great, Phil.

    And how pathetic is it, that cost always rears its ugly little head to dictate terms, whenever in Big Picture plays it pays no part whatever in its planning......none whatsoever.

  13. simon


    Is he mental?

  14. Jim Middleton

    Virtualization = $avings

    Desktop virtualization is of great interest to large organizations because there is enormous potential to save money and improve security.

    * Modern multi-core processors running MetaFrame in the data center can each host multiple desktop sessions allowing the organization to replace most of its desktop PC's with thin clients. Thin clients are less expensive, more secure, cost less to support and don't need to be replaced as often. There may also be substantial savings in software licensing - you only need to license the maximum number of copies in use at one time. For most applications, that is a lot less than the total number of users in the organization. Some of the savings will need to be invested in the data center, network infrastructure and license metering but most organizations will come out way ahead.

    * Virtualization allows you to optimize the environment for the application. If your organization has developed it's line of business applications in Oracle, it may make sense to build the virtual machines using Linux or Solaris instead of Windows. It's transparent to the user and may reduce the number of Windows licenses that need to be purchased.

    * The support burden for a thin client is essentially zero. If they break, you simply replace them - no data to worry about, no uncertainty about whether it is a hardware or software issue, they can't be infected with malware. Whatever goes wrong, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes to get the user back up and running and very little technical skill is required.

    * Thin clients are inherently secure. Corporate data is kept where it belongs - on the servers. Accessible but not transferable.

    Power users will still need workstations and mobile users will still need laptops but most organizations can probably replace 75% of their computers with thin clients with no reduction in service to the users. There are a lot of potential savings there and significantly reduced attack surface for those concerned about security.

  15. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Life in the fast lane ...... take care.

    "One major use I have for desktop virtualization, is for creating a high-security environment, for people who have stuff to hide."


    Does that not render you liable for sanction should the hidden stuff be discovered? QuIte why one would want to put oneself so directly in Harm's way is one of those mysteries which I suppose money may have the answer to? It cares not a jot , what the outcome.

  16. Dave


    Phill's notes are great ! ! ! (except possibly #4, do hope you don't get caught)

    Thad's scheme is great ! ! !

    AMFM is not mental - he merely has an oblique form of XXXXpression

    Client - side virtualisation will be the platform to support multi - level secure computing. Imagine a single box hosting 3 machines: #1 is the company confidential business / marketing environment; #2 is for not-so-sensitive business matters including external e-mail and #3 is permitted (by corporate policy!) to expose itself (oo-er!) on the Public Internet (and nobody cries too much if it gets 0wNed - killing & replacing being so easy). Corresponding multi - level secure Serverside architecture, of course.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Anonymous Coward

    Maybe you're wise enough to stay clear of the wilder shores of t3h Intarwebs, unlike most of the "IT Professionals" round these parts who'll happily log in all day as members of the Administrators group, run annaKournikovaNaked.jpg.exe because they want to see nekkid ladies dammit, and then wonder why they've been pwned 8 ways to Sunday... "useless Windoze" etc

  18. laird cummings

    Hybrid client for the win!

    We use hybrid clients - some items are hosted, like those that need central licensing control, for which we have limited numbers of licenses, and for running certain high-demand mission-critical applications. OTOH, our workforce is highly mobile, and takes maximum advantage of flexible working arrangements, so some applications it simply makes more sense to have on the machine, including lower-powered versions of some normally-hosted applications.

    Of course, if there's a line available, hosting becomes available too, which is nice - that's another feature we find useful. The end result is a hybrid laptop client that's cheaper than a fully-spec'd unit, but more much more capable than a dumb terminal, and which allows a great deal of flexibility. Crash recovery is via automated backs-up of local user data and applications, remote storage of routine work, and a good library of pre-imaged hard drives, and replacement laptops in-stock. A typical hard-crash recovery takes about an hour and a half from "it's dead, Jim" to "all systems go."

    'Green' doesn't enter into it, at all. In fact, 'Green' can bite my shiny metal ass - It's a fadish concept at this point in time. Maybe at some point it'll become a serious business driver, but right now it's a buzzword good for selling consultancy (and generating fat fees), and for selling articles in industry rags. If the standard process we use happens to be even slightly more green than other methods, well, that's a happy accident, not a design feature.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Essential for serious Windows users at home

    Everyone knows Window slows to a crawl eventually if you install too much software (registry clutter, poor uninstalls etc etc) and some people will vape & reinstall Windows every so often to deal with this, others just buy a new PC. I see desktop virtualisation as an essential companion to Windows in order to mitigate this problem.

    I have task/theme based virtual machines e.g. I have one that I use for all my digital photography stuff and another for Website development, with different suites of software installed and of course a test environment to try out those magazine cover CD packages, freeware downloads etc.

    Where Vista is concerned, the ideal version for many task based VMs with the least fluff installed would be Vista home Basic, in fact that's probably all it's suited to. But guess which version of Vista Microsoft won't allow you to use on a virtual machine....


  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a drawback...

    We all know damned well that misconfiguration is a commonplace thing in the IT world. What's going to happen when you load 100 virtual desktops onto a server and then someone goes and gets their VM infected with <insert the entire list of malware here> - 99 other users will suffer because their machine suddenly wants an entire CPU core, and 2 gigs of RAM. It gets worse when more than one user does it.

    Servers have finite resources. So you either need to make lots of servers, or find some way of dealing with exceptional loads that doesn't involve wonton destruction of data on the user's machine (like reloading from a previous state, or replacing the VM. Neither of these courses of action are acceptable in a physical machine environment, and they still aren't in a virtual environment)

  21. Dave

    @ drawback

    Not sure what the Coward intended to convey with the phrase: "when you load 100 virtual desktops onto a server "

    Methinks writer has a mental image of virtualisation that is more akin to Thin Client

    Still trying not to completely stop all work in the office with out-loud gufffaws thinking about all those destroyed Chinese dumplings (wonton destruction); even 'wanton' as an adjective is not quite correct, as the original meaning is 'casual and unrestrained sexual conduct' until Franklin Delano Roosevelt used it to convey thoughts of 'without motivation or provocation'.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    re: wanton

    I don't know which dictionary you're using Dave, but you may want to invest in a new one.

    "Wanton" has been used as a noun and adjective to mean [one who is] lacking in discipline for several hundred years. This is actually its original meaning, although considered somewhat archaic. Its use to mean lewd came later, particularly in literature.

    Thus it certainly wasn't Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was first to use it in its original sense.

    It wasn't even Theodore Roosevelt, who used it in this way in his 5th annual message in 1905 (as a quick internet search reveals) :

  23. Andy Bright

    Missed the point

    Me, not you. I think I've missed something really, really, really important in what was said - because at the moment I can't tell the difference between this and really ever-so-popular dumb terminals working off one of those really neat mainframe computers.

    I kind of agree that something is wrong with the picture. We are buying client computers for business users with 500GB hard disks, and we then tell them they can't use those to store their data - they have to fit it all in the 400bytes of free space left on the netapp.

    But ho hum. In 10 years time we will start talking about "distributed processing" taking the load off the racks of VM servers, and how it would be neat if everyone had their own personal storage to save all those annoying movies and music that fill up our servers. A truly revolutionary product I like to think might be called the Personal Computer.

    Seriously tho, before we wonder about virtualising desktops and running all our software off the interweb, wouldn't it be a neat thing if we could somehow use torrent technology to make use of all those networked 500GB hard disks we have now. Like if they were to become the server's storage area. Reserving areas on each disk to snapshot other people's data, so if one disk goes down, no one notices a darn thing, except the light that says hard disk xyz needs swapping out.

    Yes I think users need to be taught a lesson, and have their nasty multimedia personal home computers turned back into dumb terminals. But first let's look at how we can make their lives worse in other, more practical ways.

  24. Trevor King

    Legacy Gaming

    Let's not forget the really important stuff. There's a number of Win9x and XP games that I would like to think I could still play in 20 years' time (including the peerless Planescape Torment). It's possible Wine (on Linux) may mature sufficiently that my games will all run flawlessly, but it's nice to have an alternative solution just in case. Of course, this is contingent on Direct3D being handled adequately in the virtual machine interface to the real hardware, although VMWare has already made a start with some limited D3D support for XP.

    Here's a digression (to which I'm entitled because it's my first ever post to the Reg :-). Win9x currently works OK within a virtual machine because there are Win9x drivers for the virtual graphics card (and other hardware). What happens if VMWare (for example) "upgrade" their virtual graphics card to a later generation for which no Win9x drivers are available, for a version of VM Server in 3 years' time? Or am I being stupid?

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