Microsoft: Don’t buy the hype of desktop virtualization

While organizations are turning to server virtualization to reduce costs, Microsoft recently told IT departments they shouldn’t necessarily expect a huge benefit from desktop virtualization.

Though desktop virtualization has advantages for businesses in many situations, virtualized desktops are still, overall, more expensive and less powerful than their physical counterparts, wrote Gavriella Schuster, senior director of the Windows commercial product management group, in a recent blog entry.

Schuster cited a recent study, which found that:

  1. Virtualized desktops generally cost 9-11% more than a corresponding PC environment
  2. Virtualization cuts hardware costs for desktop machines by an average of 32% — but those savings are canceled out by a 64% increase in software costs in the data center
  3. Help desk costs are reduced because virtual desktops are easier to maintain — but the additional expertise needed to run a virtual environment can add to IT’s costs by the same amount, and
  4. Users working on virtualized desktops often complained of worse performance, due to the dependence on network connectivity.

That’s not to say desktop virtualization is a waste of time and money. Says Schuster: “We think VDI [virtualized desktop infrastructure] is good for all organizations but not necessarily all users.

For example, some folks may need to run more than one environment — likely on two different PCs. VDI would allow that user to run both on the same machine.

Also, many users in a company may be able to handle the performance loss of virtual desktops, while some will always need a separate workstation.

As for other types of virtualization, it seems companies are finding more value in server virtualization, at least based on adoption rates. As we reported earlier, the percentage of servers that are virtualized has increased by 3% in the past year.

  • OracleGuy17701

    Once again Microsoft is trying to control the world. As in ANY technology implementation – the basic question needs to be asked and properly answered – What does the business expect at the end of the project? Include Future state views and the associated savings with each option before making the decisions. Pilot in a large enough environment to properly simulate the current state and expansion over a 3-5 year period (for capital planning depreciation calculations). There will be hard savings in cost of devices (PC vs Thin Client), however many forget about the soft savings that will be gained in certain areas (patch loading at each PC – now done from a central console) that will free up the individual’s time to work on more value added tasks.
    Just my two cents – there you go 2 cents saved already!

  • seescout

    Smells like FUD to me

  • Cletus

    What total noise. The hardware costs are a wash; the real savings are in operations but they don’t stop there. Provisioning, patching, power (wall and cooling), upgrades, availability etc all benefit. But Microsoft said “don’t” so since they’ve always got only my best interests at heart…

  • Alisdair Hamilton-Wilkes

    The key point is correct. Many of the benefits mooted for desktop virtualisation are already available to a well run PC estate. Larger organisations already have deployment, patching, application packaging and deployment in place; in fact many of the better ones have had these disciplines in place for more than a decade.

    As the original article points out, it means that today the major benefits for VDI, much like Citrix/Terminal Services are niche uses; Remote Access, running specific applications, call centre or kiosk users etc.

    This will probably change as server power is increasing dramatically and trends have emerged suggesting end-users’ desire for power finally seems to be satiated (the rise of netbooks and ‘good enough’ computing demonstrates this) providing scope for savings through massive aggregation of data centre resources.

  • RWA

    So are these a worthwhile investment? We have several failing, old computers that need to be replaced and this may be a solution.

  • VDI_Critic

    One of the primary reasons VDI implementations will cost you more in licensing costs is Microsoft’s own licensing practices. Currently known as VECD (, Microsoft’s licensing position requires you to pay an annual fee (between $35-$110, depending on specific details) for the right to use Windows client OS on a virtual system. This is a payment above and beyond the license costs paid to your VDI provider (Citrix, VMware, etc.) At these prices, no wonder a virtual PC is more expensive than a physical PC.

    One way to get around this issue, however, is to deploy Linux desktops as part of a VDI implementation.

    Good luck

  • Our satellite office (located 15 miles from our main office) works entirely from the remote desktop to our terminal server, as does our employee on family leave for the last 6 months and anyone in our office working from home, it’s fantastic. The only time we had problems was when the terminal server got old & needed to be replaced, but that’s just maintenance. Our main office desktops are hooked into the traditional server but that may change. (I think this is the same thing as virtualized desktops, if not nevermind & sorry for not knowing what i’m talking about!)

  • matthewv

    Though I haven’t compared the costs and benefits involved, I do agree with one of the main points:

    “We think virtualized desktop infrastructure is good for all organizations but not necessarily all users.”

    I know that at our company, many departments could use VDI effectively and barely notice the difference (with benefits to cost, security, maintenance, etc.), since those people tend to use only a handful of standard apps (mostly MS Office) from laptops (where losing the laptop could mean releasing sensitive data if it’s stored on the hard drive), and share data on a central server anyway. But creative (design) and development departments absolutely could not.

    Performance issues, inability to control the environment and install needed software, etc. all preclude VDI for most work in those departments. Not that we mind having a VDI option to do additional work on the same physical workstation (and in fact we do have Remote Desktop for some such uses), but both departments really need the performance of local desktop apps (which VDI will never be able to fully match) along with access to some expensive apps the rest of the organization doesn’t need (Adobe Creative Suite etc.), and development also needs full control over the physical workstation and the ability to install additional software at will (to run test servers, use various development tools and IDEs, etc).

    If our company tried to impose VDI on our departments, I expect nearly all the designers and developers would simply leave for a more-enlightened company before long.

    A previous company I worked at tried to enfoce Citrix WinFrame use for accessing certain major in-house applications, but it was only beneficial in a subset of circumstances (ie, if the data resided on a remote server, rather than at our site’s local server), so we only used it selectively. Managament claimed Citrix would always be as fast as running the applications locally, but I participated in a series of tests that proved otherwise.

  • Sam

    We have a satellite office located several hundred miles away from our main office. We also have outside sale reps scattered all around the country that never show up in the main office. All of them currently use our terminal server.
    All the workstations in the main office use a traditional LAN to the servers. Each worker of the main office can RDP into their individual workstation from anywhere. As admin I can RDP into any workstation from anywhere as well. So in the main office I really can’t see any advantage to VDI.
    Where I can see it panning out is in replacing the traditional terminal server. Pros and Cons:
    Con: Terminal server licenses are cheaper than Windows licenses.
    Con: VDI requires more hardware recourses from the server.
    Con: Terminal server is cheaper to maintain. Software installations, updates and patches are all done once.
    Pro: Users get a nicer/richer desktop environment (WIN 7 vs. a server desktop) with more options for individual customization (font size ect.).

    So it really boils down to how much you are willing to spend so your outside sale people and satellite workers will have a more fun desktop environment.

  • James

    Microsoft’s position here is oddly counter intuitive on the surface – shouldn’t they want us to buy the more expensive virtual desktops? They are seemingly influencing the market one way with price and the other way with recommendation. There must be some advantage to selling OEM PC installations vs selling bulk licensing to IT professionals. Could it be that many of the advantages of upgrading OS’s recently just happen to fall into Sam’s “nicer/richer desktop” catagory? Such “improvements” might be a more difficult sell to corporations without being able to piggyback them in through office back doors on the latest PC purchases.