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VDI trends toward DaaS, mobility in 2019

With the new year approaching, the time is right to reset the VDI table and look at the rise of desktop as a service and mobile devices as VDI endpoints.

Time stands still for no one. As the calendar flips to a new year yet again, that holds true for VDI trends as change continues to reshape the face of the technology.

VDI may be taking a back seat to other desktop-hosting options such as desktop as a service (DaaS). DaaS holds great appeal for smaller organizations that want the simplified management and flexibility that virtual desktops bring without the hassle of managing the back-end infrastructure. In fact, fewer small organizations -- those with less than 1,000 users -- are working with VDI than in the past, opting instead for cloud-based options, according to Login VSI and Frame's "VDI like a Pro: End User Computing State of the Union -- 2018" report released in May.

As VDI trends toward DaaS, the rise of mobility and the need for a one-stop shop for users to access their resources also influenced the year that was in VDI.

Windows Virtual Desktop reshapes DaaS market

The biggest development in DaaS was Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop. The company said Windows Virtual Desktop would host Windows 10 and Windows 7 virtual desktops in Microsoft Azure at its Ignite conference in September. Windows Virtual Desktop, which is supposed to be available in preview before the end of the year, creates head-to-head competition with other DaaS offerings such as Amazon WorkSpaces and Workspot.

The main appeal of Windows Virtual Desktop should be twofold. Users get access to actual Windows 10 or Windows 7 desktops on Azure rather than versions of a server OS dressed up to act like a desktop OS. In doing so, users should not run into as many compatibility issues for apps and other services. In addition, the global availability of Azure means that users will never be too far from their virtual desktops and should be able to connect without much latency.

To bolster the appeal of Windows Virtual Desktop, Microsoft acquired FSLogix, an application provisioning and performance management vendor, in November. FSLogix technology should help Office 365 performance on virtual desktops by reducing profile load times, for example. In addition, IT can isolate user profiles in containers, including Office 365 containers, and store and manage the profiles on premises or in the cloud.

VDI trends toward mobile devices

Browser-based clients also make mobile devices more viable as VDI endpoints.

Another continuing development in VDI trends is the increasing viability of mobile devices as endpoints. Traditionally, VDI shops shied away from tablets and smartphones because the screens were simply too small and the resolution on the devices wasn't up to snuff to run a desktop. To make matters worse, if users didn't have an internet connection, they couldn't reach their virtual desktops or, if the signal was weak, performance suffered.

The technology of mobile devices has continued to improve this year, however. 4G and an explosion of available wireless networks have gone a long way toward preventing connection issues.

In addition, devices are growing. Users can realistically work with an Apple iPhone X, for example, which has a 5.8-inch screen and 2436 x 1125 resolution, to access virtual desktops. There are also products such as Samsung's DeX dock that allow users to display a desktop version of Google Android on their computer monitors from the Galaxy S8, S8+, Note 8 or Note 9.

From a software perspective, vendors have noticed these VDI trends and focused on mobile access. Citrix HDX Mobile, for example, refactors apps to take advantage of mobile features if a user works on a smartphone or tablet. Browser-based clients also make mobile devices more viable as VDI endpoints because users can work with any device or OS.

And then there are the workspace portals -- VMware Workspace One and Citrix Cloud -- that bring all of a user's desktop and mobile resources into one access point and give IT enterprise mobility management capabilities.

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