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But VDI also has some serious downsides.
Apps and data must be transferred from each user's local machine to the virtualization server's storage environment. Virtualization severs each require one or more hypervisor licenses (usually priced per-processor) plus lots of server horsepower and storage capacity.
Then there are the increases in power, cooling and utility bills required to keep a more active data center humming.
"[E]nterprises need to understand the strain this technology can place on their data center infrastructures and operations, especially when thousands of employees use this platform type," said Dawson.
From the end-user's perspective, virtualized desktops often run (or appear to run) more slowly than their native counterparts, particularly for graphics-intensive applications. They also present new challenges for accessing local peripherals such as printers, scanners and drives.
Then there's the issue of client licensing. Windows licenses transfer directly to the virtualization server without issue. But as of July, 2010, access devices that are not running Windows or don't otherwise come under a Microsoft Software Assurance plan could be subject to a $100 per-device, per-year Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) licensing fee. Yup, that's $100 per device, per year.
For example, an executive can access his VDI desktop using a laptop running Windows, but if he wants to bring it up on a smart phone, someone needs to buy a VDA. Once licensed, however, the VDA's roaming provision permits that user to access as many as four VDI images (virtual machines) from "any device outside the corporate environment," according to a Microsoft FAQ (PDF) on the subject. Such devices might include public kiosks, home computers and the like.
Gartner characterizes licensing as a "major stumbling block" to widespread adoption of virtualization and VDI, and advises that companies plan to spend more time on contract negotiations and understand completely the changes in vendor pricing and licensing agreements or face significant cost increases.
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