Executive Summary:
Virtualization can help save money and increase efficiency in cash-strapped IT environments.

I used to enjoy listening to the radio during my daily drive to work. Not so much anymore: Every newscast seems to offer a gloomier economic outlook than the last one, filled with news of layoffs, declining consumer confidence, and a host of other financial ills. In addition, everyone I know is cutting back on expenses, from my next-door neighbor to the corporate executives here at Penton Media.

IT professionals haven't escaped the economic downturn, but some time-worn IT technologies are increasingly being called upon to minimize infrastructure costs and improve efficiency. Virtualization is at the forefront of this cost savings, and IT pros are turning to it more than ever before.

I recently spoke with Bob Meyer, Worldwide Virtualization Solutions Lead for the Technology Solutions Group at HP, about the effect virtualization is having on IT departments. Meyer told me that the economic climate is already having an effect (albeit a positive one) on HP's business, as customers who might have been dragging their feet on adopting a virtualization solution have moved ahead. "We've seen significant changes in customer behavior in the last 6 months," he said. "The economic climate has helped push some of our customers—who may have been on the fence when it comes to using virtualization for production environments—into using virtualization more aggressively."

Although server consolidation and testing environments have always been prime candidates for virtualization, recent economic pressures are driving growth of newer types of virtualization, including virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and virtualized desktops. "Virtualization \[at the desktop\] is one of the fastest growing areas of virtualization," says Meyer. "Virtualizing everything from the desktop to the data center provides lots of cost and efficiency savings."

Thin Clients, Fat Rewards
Thin-client computing has been around for ages, but recent developments in virtualization promise to make this model more cost effective and usable than previous efforts. For example, using VMware View, IT admins can host virtualized user desktops on a central server, then let users access those desktops using secure thin clients. It's not a perfect solution for every user and use-case, but increasing network bandwidth and Internet bandwidth, as well as rapid advancements in virtualization technology, could make this model an effective alternative to so-called "fat clients" (i.e., user PCs that are often very capable individually, but expensive for IT pros to maintain and manage).

According to a recent Gartner report, the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a server-based computing platform that delivers all applications to users is around 50 percent less than unmanaged desktop deployments, and 11 to 18 percent less than well-managed client PC deployments.

Renewed interest in a virtualization-powered thin-client computing model has buoyed the fortunes of thin-client provider Wyse, which has seen its revenue increase. "\[The\] best barometer here is that while PC company revenue has fallen \[in Q4 2008\], Wyse's revenue has continued to grow," says Jeff McNaught, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer for Wyse Technology. "We believe this is an indicator that companies that decided on thin clients to reduce TCO are going ahead with those installations, and not delaying." McNaught points out that the majority of Wyse's thin-client customers are using Microsoft Terminal Services and/or Citrix XenApp with their thin clients, although the company is seeing more customers using Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View recently. If you're using Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View to create hosted virtual desktops (and minimize your rich client overhead), drop me an email—I'd love to hear how cost effective those solutions have been for you.

Consolidating Identity and Security: Microsoft's Platform Vision
Consolidation can work wonders in the context of virtualization, but it can reap benefits in other areas of your IT infrastructure as well. Microsoft believes that identity and security have a brighter future together than they do apart, so the company has started to merge the product groups responsible for identity and security into one cohesive unit, dubbed the Identity and Security Business Group. I recently spoke with Microsoft's General Manager for that group, Doug Leland, to get a look at what Microsoft has planned for this new division. This interview is in the article "Identity and Security: Microsoft's Next Generation."


Talk Back: Tell Us What You Think

We're always eager to hear reader feedback on everything we do here at Windows IT Pro, so I encourage you to let us know what's on your mind. Please drop me an email at jjames@windowsitpro.com, follow me on Twitter @jeffjames3, or give me a call directly at 970-203-2775. We also invite you to participate in an online survey about using virtualization as a cost-saving tool, which you can access at http://tinyurl.com/ccvs5u.