This article, authored by Silas McCullough, General Manager of Legal Professional Services at mindSHIFT Technologies, Inc., is featured in the December 2011 issue of ILTA's Peer to Peer Magazine titled "The Incredible Shrinking Computer."
The ever-increasing competitive landscape, limited IT resources and current economic conditions have caused many law firms - large and small alike - to seek out new alternatives to lengthy, complicated IT deployment cycles, escalating hardware costs and the demand for access to data from any location. Desktop virtualization is one option that makes today's desktop hardware footprint, time to roll out a legal desktop and IT costs smaller while increasing employee productivity as well as accessibility to and availability of electronic data. The primary reason is the ability to quickly access and modify data within a fully functional desktop session from virtually any device, including thin clients, tablets and smartphones, as well as PCs and laptops.
Benefits of Desktop Virtualization
- Desktop virtualization is transforming the traditional desktop, enabling it to become an independent entity in the network infrastructure. The desktop no longer requires the dedicated endpoint computing power that it once did and has enabled a wide array of smaller, less costly devices such as tablets, smartphones and thin-client devices to replace the traditional desktop.
- Two of the most popular and commonly used desktop virtualization solutions are VMware View using the PCoIP protocol and Citrix XenDesktop using the ICA protocol. These protocols enable high-performance connectivity between the endpoint device and the desktop that runs on a server infrastructure. And unlike the shared desktop environment found on a terminal-services or Citrix XenApp system, each user effectively has an individual desktop that runs independently of all other desktops.
- Management of the firm's endpoint devices is simplified since you can substitute a new device for a failing one without a lengthy setup process or precisely matching hardware or software requirements.
- IT staff can prototype new desktops at a speed unheard of under the traditional desktop build method. They can simply build a new virtual desktop and test it on any end-client device. There is no need to be concerned about specific device drivers, and adjustments can be made to the desktop on the fly. In addition, virtualization allows for a desktop snapshot, which can be taken as a reference at any point during the development process. This offers the convenience of troubleshooting issues without having to "start over" whenever a problem occurs; the snapshots provide a quick and easy way to return to a previous iteration of the desktop.
The Numbers Add Up
Recent analysis by mindSHIFT Technologies, Inc. reveals that transitioning from a traditional laptop/desktop environment to a desktop virtualization model can result in a dramatic savings in hardware costs over midrange desktops and workstation-equivalent laptops. Operational savings are also realized because thin-client devices use less power than standard PCs and typically have a longer lifecycle, so it is no longer necessary to purchase new equipment every three years.
And although additional, higher performance servers are required to host virtual desktops, the total cost of servers, laptops and desktops under the traditional model is usually higher. In fact, mindSHIFT's analysis has shown that the breakeven point between a desktop virtualization solution versus a traditional deployment occurs between 50 and 75 users.
The ability to easily make adjustments as a firm's needs change or see an immediate reduction in expenses can be achieved quickly when implementing desktop virtualization.
Do More With Less
A criticism of desktop virtualization has been the inability of the client device to access the virtual desktop on the server when the network goes down. Using VMware View Local Mode or Citrix XenClient technologies, users can continue to work on their desktop files and applications even when the server is not accessible. Firms now have the best of both worlds — cost savings and the ability to continue working while offline. The future of desktop virtualization is bright and closer than you think, if not already here. More and more firms have come to realize that they really can do more with less and that desktop virtualization just makes good business sense.
This article was first published in ILTA's December 2011 issue of Peer to Peer titled "The Incredible Shrinkng Computer: Innovative Technology, Less Hardware" and is reprinted here with permission. For more information about ILTA, visit their website at www.iltanet.org.