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VMware gaining ground as VDI market grows

VMware's investments into virtual desktop infrastructure pay off as the market grows and enterprises try to simplify endpoint management.

The growing diversity of system endpoints is providing the VDI market with a recent boost. Companies now find themselves supporting a growing array of devices and want to simplify increasingly complex management requirements.

VMware has moved to fill that virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) void and has been rewarded for its efforts.

"As other vendors moved away from the VCC (virtual client computing, a term IDC uses) market, VMware invested and now is the market's second leading supplier," said Robert Young, research director for IT service management and client virtualization software at IDC.

Virtualized desktops centrally host application resources, an approach that offers enterprises a few potential benefits. Employees work with a growing variety of devices, including laptops, tablets and smart phones. Rather than manage the endpoints individually, the IT department can centrally consolidate those functions. The change reduces service delivery and application costs, simplifies system backup functions, and provides users with more consistent experiences.

VDI offerings have been available more than a decade. The market had been a bit sleepy, but a few recent technical advances have awoken it.

VDI market goes from simple to complex

IDC projects that the VCC market will rise from $3 billion in 2015 to $4.6 billion in 2020, an 8.9% compound annual growth rate.

These systems were suited to run simple applications, such as Microsoft Office productivity software. Products in the VDI market often lacked the bandwidth and processing power to handle complex applications, like engineering workstations or video editing systems.

"VCC systems do a much better job now of handling complex applications than they did a few years ago," Young added.

The growing use of mobile devices also sparked interest. The adoption of BYOD policies has meant that IT departments oversee a wide range of systems running a hodgepodge of operating systems and examining individual devices can be time-consuming. Corporations can scan the VDI market to find an offering that has the ability to manage them from a central location.

Unclogging system bottlenecks

The VDI market has created a few potential performance bottlenecks for admins. These systems generate a lot of interactions between servers and storage systems but recent improvements in data deduplication and flash storage have lowered such barriers.

Sometimes, events create system storms, times when the infrastructure struggles to meet demand. For example, updates and patches can trigger system storms. If a corporation has a few hundred virtual desktops on a server and each receives a 100 MB update, system performance can take a hit. Vendors addressed the issue with application layering. Here, a single master copy of an application is updated rather than each version.

VDI reduces endpoint computing and administration expenses, but shifts some costs to the company server. The needed data center (e.g., server, storage, network bandwidth) infrastructure and software often represents a high initial capital expenditure. Instead of building up their own data center systems, businesses can now choose public cloud VDI options, dubbed desktop as a service.

Strong growth in the VDI market forecast

Because of the changes, IDC projects that the VCC market will rise from $3 billion in 2015 to $4.6 billion in 2020, an 8.9% compound annual growth rate, which has attracted suppliers. Beyond VMware, Amazon Web Services, Citrix, Cisco, Microsoft and Red Hat also have such offerings.

As the VDI market has evolved, a few vendors moved to the front of the pack. Citrix has been the market leader -- 43.2% market share -- and continues to grow its user base. VMware has made noteworthy changes, such as a Smart Policies function that simplifies user authentication, and sits solidly in second place with 13.5% market share, according to IDC.

While the market has been seeing steady growth, it still faces a few hurdles. Businesses often customize the applications that their users work with, and that process can be challenging at times. The client systems have to be integrated with enterprise security policies and solutions, and connecting them to products like Microsoft's Active Directory, can be complex and time-consuming.

Performance challenges also still arise. The moving of system processing to a central area changes enterprise network dynamics. Booting the systems in the morning when employees arrive at work, or connecting workers to a video conferencing meeting, can overwhelm the network.

The VDI market had been quietly chugging along for years but now is enjoying a resurgence. Vendors have addressed long-standing issues, so organizations can now find solutions that ease their desktop management requirements.

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