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Contributing Writer

Will Desktop Virtualization Prosper Over The WAN?

Aug 23, 20113 mins
Cisco SystemsCitrix SystemsData and Information Security

Security and management issues may drive a new era in remote computing

For years, large organizations have centralized applications and IT services in order to cut costs and drive greater efficiencies. This slowly decrease the IT portfolio in remote offices/branch offices. One-by-one email, file, application, and backup servers were pulled out of branches as these services were moved to central IT.Judging by the progress in this area, centralization appears extremely successful but alas, one especially difficult technology remains anchored to branch and remote offices — PCs. This is a real problem since PC management and security has always been a, “one step up two steps back” proposition. Remote PC security alone remains a bear. In a recent ESG Research report, IT professionals were asked to define their biggest information security issues around remote/branch office support. Managing remote PC security and configurations topped the list of challenges. Obviously, persistent PC security problems remain. So what are large organizations doing to address this? You may be surprised to learn that a growing number of firms are ready to can the whole PC enchilada and replace physical remote PC configurations with desktop virtualization alternatives. In fact, 25% of organizations are already using desktop virtualization technologies to serve remote/branch workers, 22% plan to do so in the next 12 months, and 20% plan to do so in the next 24 months.This makes a ton of sense — standard desktop images, centralized configuration and patch management, server-based storage of sensitive PC data, etc. I can see desktop virtualization gaining momentum in the future as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies evolve further. What else does change mean? Here are a few thoughts:1. Desktop virtualization represents a new use case for WAN optimization vendors. The primary job of WAN optimization controllers is accelerating Sharepoint, Exchange, and file access. Lots of vendors do this pretty well but desktop virtualization requires new protocol support and may open the market for new equipment or new vendors. Citrix is keenly aware of this and is already tightly-coupling XenDesktop (and XenApp) with NetScaler.2. Virtual desktops may not come from corporate HQ. My guess is that many firms will look at the transition from physical to virtual desktops and at least investigate SaaS provider options as an alternative to owning all of the servers, storage, networking equipment, etc. This may mean that branch offices become dual-homed with WAN connections to corporate data centers and direct Internet connections for cloud connectivity. This could be a profound change to typical branch office networks.3. Virtualization will likely spread to tablets, smart phones, and remote workers. If virtualization can ease endpoint management and improve security, why stop at remote office Windows PCs? More and more endpoints will simply render graphics over the network rather than receive software updates and store sensitive data on local memory and disk.

Contributing Writer

Jon Oltsik is a distinguished analyst, fellow, and the founder of the ESG’s cybersecurity service. With over 35 years of technology industry experience, Jon is widely recognized as an expert in all aspects of cybersecurity and is often called upon to help customers understand a CISO's perspective and strategies. Jon focuses on areas such as cyber-risk management, security operations, and all things related to CISOs.

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