For quite some time virtual desktops have been growing in popularity, first as a means to effectively deliver desktops for call centers, support desks, etc., and now it has become an increasingly popular strategy for dealing with an ever growing "bring your own device to work" problem. That is, how does your IT staff support the wide range of different devices - PCs, Macs, tablets, and smartphones from multiple different vendors - that are infiltrating the workplace? The answer is - you don't.
Indeed, more organizations are looking to deploy desktop virtualization solutions to deliver a consistent image, complete with all applicable business applications to any device an employee chooses to leverage in order to solve this problem. It enables IT to provide greater levels of flexibility to its employees and yet still maintain control over the data, especially sensitive data, which will still be housed in the centralized data center. However, with most pilots done in a limited data center environment, organizations need to be more aware of the impact this may have on the network, especially if they are planning on deploying it in any remote or branch offices. Like any centralized application, if not done correctly, poor performance and availability issues will lead to user frustration and eventually abandonment, potentially wasting a great deal of money (think about some of the problems with the initial centralized SharePoint deployments, etc.).
In 2012 this may be even more of an issue, as ESG research indicates that, while 25% of respondents to our Remote Office/Branch Office Technology Trends survey indicated that they have already deployed centralized virtual desktop solutions at ROBOs, another 42 % plan to do so over the next 18 months. So now is the time to ensure that your virtual desktop initiative will not be hindered by the WAN. With the proper insight (network management tools) and testing (make sure the POC includes at least one typical ROBO location), problems can be averted. In some cases the WAN link you already have may be adequate, in others, you may need more. In those cases, I would recommend investigating optimizing the WAN link before simply ordering more bandwidth as over time it could save a significant amount from your operational budget. It should be noted that while WAN optimization technology wasn't originally designed to optimize virtual desktops, many vendors have recognized the need and are rapidly adding support for different desktop virtualization vendors and their specific technologies. The key will be knowing which WAN links need additional support and then matching the appropriate WAN optimization vendors to your desktop virtualization solutions in advance of the formal rollout in order to increase your chances for success.
You can read Bob's other blog entries at Data Center Continuum.