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Desktop Virtualisation

Desktop virtualisation involves encapsulating and delivering either access to an entire information system environment or the environment itself to a remote client device. The client device may use an entirely different hardware architecture than that used by the projected desktop environment, and may also be based upon an entirely different operating system.

The desktop virtualization model allows the use of virtual machines to let multiple network subscribers maintain individualized desktops on a single, centrally located computer or server. The central machine may operate at a residence, business, or data center. Users may be geographically scattered, but all may be connected to the central machine by a local area network, a wide area network, or the public Internet.

A simple use for desktop virtualization involves remote administration—where the controlling computer will work almost the same as on a duplicate desktop, except that the actions of the controlling computer may be almost unnoticeable on the remote computer display. This differs from simple remote desktop software in that several people can use the same controlling computer at once, without disturbing each others' work. This could be useful for several administrators doing different tasks on the same server. It can also be used for using hardware attached to the controlled computer, without disturbing a person who may already be using the computer.

However, a major use spreads the resources of one machine to several users. In some cases one can buy one large computer (or server) and several thin clients or dumb terminals, rather than purchasing a complete computer for each physical workstation. The controlling thin-client computers need only enough resources to run the remote controlling software, therefore virtualization can provide a very simple and cheap computing system. Users of such a "thin client" or "dumb terminal" may not even know that "their" software actually runs on another computer. If one already has enough computers, but they are not powerful enough, only one new computer may be needed, with the old ones re-usable as thin clients.

Benefits

The shared resources model inherent in desktop virtualization offers advantages over the traditional model, in which every computer operates as a completely self-contained unit with its own operating system, peripherals, and application programs. Overall hardware expenses may diminish as users can share resources allocated to them on an as-needed basis. Virtualization potentially improves the data integrity of user information because all data can be maintained and backed-up in the data center. Other potential advantages include:

  • simpler provisioning of new desktops
  • reduced downtime in the event of server or client hardware-failures
  • lower cost of deploying new applications
  • desktop image-management capabilities
  • longer refresh cycle for client desktop infrastructure
  • secure remote access to an enterprise desktop environment