The big guns tackle BYOD with desktop virtualisation

What is interesting about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) efforts is that they are more effectively driving thin client solutions than the thin client movement itself did a decade or so ago. This is because the variety of devices, combined with the lack of focus on business requirements by Apple, has made it untenable to support each device individually.

As a result, IT departments are aggressively exploring alternatives that provide the experience users want on their devices-largely iPads, iPhones and Android smartphones-without causing support organisations to implode. The leading contenders are virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and desktop virtualisation.

A lot of vendors were chasing this opportunity at VMworld 2012. Let’s look at the different approaches from Dell and the partnership between Cisco Systems and EMC.

Cisco, EMC Focus on Low Latency
The Cisco/EMC/VMware collaboration known as the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) is one of the more interesting initiatives currently in market because it showcases strong technology and a unique partnering method.

VCE was designed as a way to get the benefits of a firm such as IBM or HP without the self-limitations, internal conflicts and bureaucracy a large umbrella organisation brings with it. Most partnerships are little more than press events and don’t weather the test of time. The VCE partnership is far different-the company even has its own CEO.

This relationship was leveraged to create a unique VDI solution in which EMC developed optimised storage products and tied them to Cisco’s already optimised servers. Cisco came late to the party but added the perspective of a communications vendor. Unlike most servers, which are optimised for raw performance, Cisco’s are optimised to minimise latency. This is critical for the VCE platform’s unified communications goals.

It just so happens that virtualised desktops need low latency, too. In this case, it’s to provide the user experience demanded by the market. The end result is a near-perfect storm of storage and servers, all made possible by a unique partnership. I talked to EMC and Cisco about their VDI offering a couple of weeks ago. Overall, the solution seems well positioned to addresses the BYOD trend.

Dell Taking End-to-End Approach
While EMC leads in partnerships, Dell leads in the more traditional, end-to-end approach of acquisitions. In addition, because Dell is a desktop vendor, it recognises that a critical shortcoming of thin client solutions, such as the old Sun Ray 1, is inadequate graphics performance.

This strategy is wrapped with Dell services, through its acquisition of Perot Systems, and has within it a variety of management layers provided by various other Dell acquisitions. Collectively, Dell better addresses the more traditional areas for thin clients-call centres, shared employees or guest use-because the whole package has been designed with the familiar fixed-client architecture in mind.
As a result, Dell has developed a layered solution that includes zero clients from its recent Wyse Technology acquisition-zero clients, unlike thin clients, don’t run any native code-as well as servers

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