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User virtualization also allows organizations to standardize on a smaller number of master images, which lowers administration and support costs, said Eugene Alfaro, director of IT engineering services at Cornerstone Technologies, San Jose, Calif.
"If you're going to use a master or 'gold template' disk scheme, you have to have user virtualization," he said. "If you're tied to persistent disks to maintain personalization for users, and that nullifies any cost of ownership benefits for VDI."
Standardizing desktop builds and application delivery is another area in which user virtualization can help in Windows desktop migrations. "With personalization and simple profile management, [user virtualization] gives you look and feel of own private image, even though you're using a shared image," said Andy Paul, principal virtualization consultant at data center solution provider GlassHouse Technologies.
User virtualization has also proven an effective way to get the wheels turning on stalled virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) projects.
In some cases, VDI deployments get hung up because of technical issues. But employees have also been known to revolt after the physical-to-virtual transition because the look and feel of virtual desktops is different from what they're used to. The stripping away of personalization has been a thorny issue for many companies that have introduced VDI.
Paul Kunze, director at IntraSystems, a Braintree, Mass.-based solution provider, said this can even lead to dissension in the ranks after VDI projects. "The virtual desktop experience needs to be as good or better than physical desktops," he said. "If it's challenging for users to get to apps, or the profile setup is more cumbersome, end users won't buy in."
Seen in this light, user virtualization is like a steamroller that smoothes out the wrinkles that invariably emerge in the wake of desktop migrations. In the last six months, all of Cornerstone's desktop and application virtualization deployments have included some element of user virtualization, according to Alfaro.
"When we move customers from a non-virtual desktop over to a virtual one, the big question is, can we make it seamless to the user?" said Alfaro. "One rule in IT is you don’t rip and replace the user experience, and that's why seamless migration is important."
Next: How User Virtualization Changes The Game