Budget pressures and rapidly evolving technology are accelerating the move to enterprise services such as desktop virtualization. End-users require more fluid access to their content across locations, devices, and organizations. Thin, zero, and mobile client user devices are making it hard to keep track of the boundaries between desktop hardware and the software and data that bring them to life. Since the 2010 launch of the Apple iPad, touch screen tablet computing has now rocketed into a prominent role in most enterprise desktop roadmaps. Regardless of device, the virtual desktop is the electronic connection point for end- users. 

What is a Virtual Desktop?

The traditional legacy desktop (figure below) runs the hardware and software installed primarily on the local computer, along with any locally stored data. A Virtual Desktop has the software and data stored remotely from cloud-like resources. The Virtual Desktop can then be accessed from a variety of devices, and can be configured for connected or disconnected operation. Desktop elements include: Operating System (Ex: Windows 7), User Profiles (favorites and settings), Applications (Ex: Microsoft Office), Data (Home directories and application data).

Legacy vs. virtual desktops

I Want That … Right?

The more user profiles, applications, and data that are virtualized and hosted in a cloud-like resource, the better. We improve security when the threat surface is reduced with information protected at the secure core of the enterprise. Centralization also improves supportability and typically makes automation easier. Profiles, applications, and data stored can then be delivered to a mobile workforce with end-users accessing their enterprise experience across locations, devices, and organizations. These are excellent reasons for desktop virtualization.

When transitioning to an Enterprise environment, there are typically two desktop virtualization strategies that determine whether the operating systems (typically Windows 7) is hosted locally or in the cloud. Network capacity and response time have a big impact. A limiting case of network performance is whether the user population needs support for disconnected or semi-connected operation, where offline operation is an intentional part of the use case. Another factor on operation system hosting is whether users can be served by a standard “stateless virtual desktop infrastructure” that is recreated at each login, or whether the user requires a custom, persistent desktop.  These factors are summarized in the table below.

Virtualization Factors

Any enterprise move to Desktop Virtualization effort should consider a hybrid strategy supporting both local and cloud hosting of operating systems to deliver both reasonable user performance and reasonable cost. 

Regardless of operating system approach, user profiles, data and applications should all move to the cloud.

Read more about virtualization and our virtual desktop services:
Virtualizaton: Forecast Calls for Clouds
Virtualization: The Road to App-iness
Virtual Desktop Services


The writer of this Virtualization series, Ben Goss is BAE Systems' Virtual Desktop Service Provider technical lead. He brings technology and lessons learned that improve cost and user experience for our government customers.