What is Desktop Transformation and What Does it Mean for Applications?

By: Randy Littleson

There's a lot of hype these days around desktop transformation. What exactly is it? One of the more conventional definitions is that desktop transformation is about using technologies like desktop virtualization to better manage and deliver desktops. This frequently bleeds into a discussion about non-traditional desktops as well, since technologies like desktop virtualization enable access from devices such as iPads, Surfaces, etc.

But, there's another dimension to this that often gets overlooked in the hardware centric discussion that usually dominates, and that is, what about the applications? What is the best application deployment strategy that goes along with your desktop transformation project and how do I get there?

You should think of the application issues as separate but related to the desktop transformation discussion. They are essential to the solution since applications are at the heart of what people need to get their jobs done. However, there are unique options for desktop transformation on the hardware side and on the software/application side that need to be looked at, and then various combinations considered to see which ones make sense based on your strategy.

Case in point. I spent last week at customer and partner advisory board meetings in the UK. An observation was made was that many partners (e.g., systems integrators) were seeing a shift. A couple of years ago, they looked at application virtualization going hand-in-hand with desktop virtualization (virtual desktop infrastructure or VDI) initiatives. Now what they are finding is that this isn't the best strategy for all applications. Instead many applications are best delivered as natively deployed, MSI-based applications even in a virtual desktop environment.

Most organizations are also discovering that desktop virtualization is not a "one size fits all." Generally speaking, more static desktops (i.e., desktops with relatively simple configurations, fewer applications and infrequent changes) make the best candidates for VDI. You see these a lot in retail, financial services, call centers, etc.

The net of the story here is that you need a plan based on a virtual desktop assessment of both the desktop and the applications—which applications are being used, how are they being used, what are their infrastructure (such as bandwidth and computing resources) requirements, etc. before diving in. Then you should match the right technologies for both the desktop and the applications to those characteristics to determine the right solution.

Desktop transformation projects can yield benefits to both IT and the users if done right. But, doing it right means avoiding the assumption that one size fits all and instead involves assessment and planning to determine exactly the right combination of technologies to ensure that both needs are met. After all, if the user can't reliably and successfully use their applications to get their job done, then the desktop transformation project is doomed to fail.

For additional information and perspectives on desktop transformation, here are a couple of articles you may find helpful: "10 steps for transforming desktops to universal clients for cloud" by Jeanne Morain and "The myth of desktop transformation. Will we ever get there, or will the Big 3 lead us astray?" by Brian Madden.