Thursday, 08 December 2011 01:05

Security seen as a driver for adoption of desktop virtualisation

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Research commissioned by virtualisation vendor Citrix suggests that Australian IT decisionmakers are generally thinking along similar lines to their overseas counterparts in terms of the security implications of desktop virtualisation. Not surprisingly, it's seen as a good thing.

A survey carried out for Citrix in 11 countries including Australia, the UK and the US found 86% of respondents believe desktop virtualisation offers a strategic approach to improved information security, but just 68% of Australian respondents were of that opinion.

Stuart Driver, director of worldwide regional IT operations at Citrix, told iTWire this relatively large difference was probably "a statistical anomaly" as a very high proportion of Australian respondents said they were adopting desktop virtualisation to improve security. For example, 93% of Australian respondents said they expected desktop virtualisation to help respond to new and emerging threats.

Overall, 33% of respondents said they had already deployed desktop virtualisation, and another 58% said they planned to do so by the end of 2013. Other perceived benefits included reduced costs, greater workplace flexibility and support for mobile workers, and better risk management.

According to Mr Driver, desktop virtualisation provides an affordable way of delivering applications to mobile devices. The growing use of BYOD means organisations can't simply develop mobile apps for a single platform, and developing for multiple platforms is an expensive practice.

An important aspect of mobility is the need to apply granular access controls according to the user's situation. For example, access to certain applications may only be permitted when the device is connected to a trusted network or VPN, or it may be deemed necessary to block access to local storage devices when a virtual desktop is being used from a home PC.

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And despite a shift towards mobility (which can allow significant real estate savings compared with traditional office layouts), "there's still some legs left for the Windows platform on a desktop," said David Rajkovic, director of system engineering at Citrix's Australia and New Zealand operation. Desktop virtualisation is likely to become the de facto way of delivering Windows 7 and later Windows 8, according to Mr Driver, who predicted more hardware vendors will enter the thin client space, which will further reduce costs.

Mr Rajkovic noted that this can be achieved either by repurposing old PCs with thin client software booted from a thumb drive, or by installing new 'terminal' style devices. "Both examples are valid," he said, and Mr Driver pointed out that the user experience delivered by such deployments could equal or even better that of a conventional desktop PC, while delivering cost and manageability benefits to the organisation.

Most interest in virtual desktops as a service was coming from larger organisations including governments, said Mr Rajkovic, but he went on to suggest that VDaaS offerings to SMEs represented a potential market for Citrix partners. "If I was running a small business, I would find it very attractive."

The survey was conducted in October 2011 by Vanson Bourne. 100 senior IT decisionmakers were surveyed in each of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA, with three-quarters from organisations with at least 1000 employees, and the remainder from organisations with 500-999 employees.

A white paper based on the research is available here [PDF].


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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