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In 1960, "The Andy Griffith Show" first aired on television. A spin-off of the already popular "The Danny Thomas Show," it went on to become one of the most popular TV series of all time, far eclipsing the show from which it was spawned.
This year could see the beginning of a new IT spin-off -- desktop virtualization -- that does what Andy did to Danny. The parent technology, server virtualization, is already one of the fastest-growing segments of the IT market. Researcher IDC, for instance, estimates that the number of virtual servers deployed will rise 41 percent annually through 2010, resulting in 7.9 million virtual servers implemented on 1.7 million new physical servers.
Impressive as it is, that growth pales when compared to the potential for its spin-off, desktop virtualization. IDC, Framingham, Mass., last year said it expects more than 30 million office workers will be using virtual desktops three years from now.
Customers are ready for the move to virtual desktop PCs, said Terry Aoki, executive vice president of corporate development at Right Systems Inc., a Lacey, Wash.-based solution provider that works with Citrix Systems Inc., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for server virtualization and thin client computing, and with VMware Inc., Palo Alto, Calif., for server virtualization. "We see virtual desktops as a very viable product to take to our customer base," Aoki said. "We're having lots of conversations and seeing lots of desire to build the infrastructure. Virtual desktops are secure and remote, and can be provisioned rapidly. You can build desktops from the core without a lot of patching."
Entisys Solutions Inc., like Right Systems, works with both Citrix and VMware, and is finding growing acceptance for virtual desktops, especially among high-tech, financial, manufacturing, retail and government customers, said Mike Strohl, president of the Concord, Calif.-based solution provider. "There's not a lot of selling involved," Strohl said. "The message is a good one. Customers want to adopt it. They're just waiting for the technology to catch up."
Strohl said that the virtual desktop business is a win-win for everyone from the vendors and software developers to solution providers and their customers. "As customers adopt the technology, they need to look at other facets of their infrastructure such as security and applications," he said. "That will accelerate the business of software developers. More and more tools mean a more productive organization."
The channel has much to gain from this gathering trend, said Tad Bodeman, worldwide director of remote client solutions at Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif. "This whole category represents a new greenfield opportunity" for VARs, he said. Bodeman said all VARs, from those serving small businesses to those with enterprise accounts, can take advantage of the growing customer needs in this area. Small business VARs can approach their customers to strengthen their systems for compliance and security. VARs serving midsize and enterprise accounts can use the technology to help their customers deploy more flexible business continuity and disaster recovery solutions. They all can talk to their customers about desktop virtualization's ability to help them reduce power consumption.
Desktop virtualization enables solution providers to differentiate themselves from their competitors, he said, and change the kinds of conversations they're having with customers. VARs "can talk about how to protect company data and intellectual property and utilize offshore employees, instead of how do I save another nickel on a PC purchase," Bodeman said.