Moving the mobile desktop to the cloud

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Desktop Virtualization describes a strategy more than it does a specific technology.

The name of one of desktop virtualization’s first products from one of its foremost leaders, Citrix Winview, suggests its function. In its earliest incarnation, desktop virtualization was accomplished by using software to reach from a remote desktop computer to another computer, often a server, to “see” what was happening on the other computer.

The remote user would see exactly what appeared on the other computer’s screen. Any mouse movement or keystrokes made by the remote user would be transmitted to the other computer.

Since screen content, mouse movements, and keystrokes constitute a very small amount of data, the remote user felt like they were using the far end machine locally. Abstracting the application from the device in use in this way had many powerful advantages:

  • Remote users experienced the high-speed response of a local machine.
  • The data never traveled across the wide area network, which is what took so long in earlier remote access strategies.
  • The data never left the data center and was never resident on the remote computer, increasing data security while improving access.
  • Applications were updated on the server in the data center, eliminating the need to travel to each remote computer to perform updates. This meant that updates became instantaneous to the users, and everyone was always on the same version of the software.
  • New releases of software that required faster processors, more memory, or other hardware upgrades were accommodated at the server level with no need to update the remote computers. This gave many desktop PCs far longer useful lives.

VDI, which began as the Virtual Desktop Interface, evolved into the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, which connotes a wider-ranging architecture.

Device diversity

Today, the “desktop” metaphor doesn’t just describe a computer form factor. It extends to the visual interface between any device and its user. As such, many consider VDI to be the Virtual Device Infrastructure, a strategy for delivering applications to any computing device, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This is consistent with Microsoft’s concept of the Modern User Interface (UI) being the same on all devices, encouraging and enabling developers to produce one version of software that runs on all devices. Far easier to manage and support.

Data insulation

In any “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) environment, it is altogether possible for users to receive corporate data on their mobile device and then forward it to unauthorized individuals using their personal email or other communication app. Since this renders all security measures useless, it is perhaps the greatest security concern companies considering BYOD face.When the application using the data is running in the data center and the mobile user is connected via VDI, the data may be seen by the user, but it is never actually resident on their device. The user cannot forward the data, nor can any cybercriminal access the data. Even if the device is lost or stolen, there is no corporate data on it.

Delivering desktops to all devices

With the proliferation of tablets and smartphones exceeding desktop and laptop computers, and with new models of smartphones that can double as fully functional computers, the ability to deliver a consistent and robust user experience becomes significantly more valuable. Data is insulated; users no longer need to worry about updating anything other than their VDI software. The user’s perception of application performance is greatly enhanced, and the entire system is managed predominantly within the data center.

Today’s VDI not only delivers applications most efficiently, it also streams high-definition video and audio and enables mobile users to leverage massive data entities and file types they never could before. The acronym DaaS emerged recently, defined as Desktop-as-a-Service, in which a provider runs a VDI environment for their customer. This sort of setup can help organizations leverage IT automation and spend less time worrying about endpoint compatibility and management.