We hear it from our customers every day: Today’s increasingly-mobile workforce wants seamless, reliable, anytime access to their applications and data on a growing set of devices such as laptops, mobile devices, and home PCs. As we respond and address these user demands, IT’s priority is to maintain compliance and manage the corporate environment responsibly and efficiently.

Gone are the days when IT Pros could consider the PC portion of their IT infrastructures, at least, to be fairly simple to support. It’s getting harder to remember that time, when business populations could be divided neatly into two groups: full-time employees who worked primarily at offices on desktop computers and a smaller set of users who generally worked from afar on laptops.

Today, it’s a very different world: Businesses are increasingly global, operating on 24 x 7 schedules and reliant on outsourced help almost as much as on full-time workers. The result is an end user mashup of traditional desktop office workers and road warriors, telecommuters who split their time between headquarters and the home office and contract personnel located onsite and offshore. Workers might be using multiple computers—some managed, some not—and their application and data access needs are more complicated.

The growing variety of user scenarios that have been created by new business requirements demands that IT leaders optimize and simplify the desktop infrastructure through virtualization. But desktop virtualization is not a one-for all solution. Rather, it’s a set of technologies aimed at solving the business issues that have been brought on by a more complex client computing infrastructure.

IT Pros need choice if they are to efficiently and effectively support today’s heterogeneous and far-flung client base. Do you need to confront rising desktop total ownership costs that go hand in hand with having to support a diverse end user population? Do you need to be more agile to respond to new opportunities and developments? In all likelihood, most IT Pros probably have to consider both requirements and deploy the solutions that are appropriate to each scenario. 

Microsoft Desktop Virtualization provides a comprehensive suite of solutions which enables a company to give their employees the flexibility to work everywhere on a range of devices; while simplifying compliance and management through a centralized & unified infrastructure. 

Here are a couple of examples mostly explored by customers: 

With Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), IT can transform traditional applications into centrally managed services that are available on any authorized PC at any time. Users don’t have to wait for applications to install and they don’t have to reboot to begin using new applications. IT can use App-V’s built-in management to stream applications to users on demand. It’s easy to assign, or retire, applications to users using Active Directory groups. 

App-V also integrates with System Center Configuration Manager, so businesses can manage virtual and traditional applications, along with operating system deployment, hardware and software inventory, patch management and endpoint security with a single management tool.

App-V is available through the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance. Not sure if App-V is for your organization? Check out Karri Alexion-Tiernan's blog post on the Windows for your Business Blog to learn more. 

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Session Virtualization is a desktop and application delivery model that provides users access to applications, data, and desktops centralized in the data center. RDS enables flexible access to Windows to workers no matter their location or device, giving users access to applications and desktops from a web page, a SharePoint portal, a local desktop, or over the Internet.  If you wish to utilize the RDS functionality of the Windows Server software, an RDS Client Access License (CAL) is required (formerly Terminal Services).  An RDS CAL is required for each user or device. App-V works great in conjunction with RDS, and App-V for Remote Desktop Services is included in the RDS CAL!

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is an alternative desktop delivery model that allows users to access secure and centrally-managed desktops running in the datacenter. Organizations can accelerate and extend deployment of desktops and applications to a wide array of client devices, including clients on which the operating system can’t run natively; making end users can more productive from any location. For licensing the VDI infrastructure, customers have essentially two options: They can license with the VDI infrastructure components with an RDS CAL, while licensing the VDI management components separately. Or, they can choose one of the two new volume license offerings—the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Standard Suite and the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Premium Suite.

Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) Windows VDA is designed to help customers license virtual copies of Windows.  It is a device based subscription, which means the total number of licenses is equal to the total number of devices that access the virtual environment (i.e. Windows Client running on a server or Datacenter).  Customers can obtain VDA either through a device based subscription or by attaching Software Assurance (SA).

To take advantage of desktop virtualization, organizations should start by identifying the business problems they are trying to solve and then understanding how different desktop virtualization solutions can address their specific business needs. One size does not fit all. Microsoft Desktop Virtualization is unique because it provides solutions across the entire desktop stack.

For scenarios in which organizations want to provide a personalized Windows experience across any connected or offline corporate PC and IT is looking to simplify management and accelerate deployment of corporate applications to users on demand, organizations should begin by adopting Microsoft App-V and User State Virtualization.

Choosing an operating system virtualization technology depends on the scenario and use case that an organization is trying to address. Microsoft recommends VDI and RDS Session Virtualization for scenarios in which enabling flexible access to Windows from multiple devices, centralized desktop management, and security and compliance are the primary business requirements. Organizations can use both technologies for user-device flexibility and enable secure access from unmanaged-devices. VDI is more beneficial when users need high level of personalization and operating system isolation, like in the case of doctors or financial advisors; whereas RDS session virtualization can provide users access to a single or limited centrally hosted LOB applications with more scalability, like in the case of call center agents, insurance agents etc. Hence, VDI and RDS Session Virtualization are good for every company but not necessarily for every desktop.

So, when should you consider desktop virtualization? Maybe for all of you thinking of, or presently migrating to Windows 7, check out Karri’s blog for more info.
Do you want to see who else is using desktop virtualization in their IT? Check out the Windows blog for more info.

Finally, are you ready to start deploying desktop virtualization? Check out Stephen Rose’s blog for more details. We know you have questions and we’d like to hear them. Let us know how we can help!