When it comes to desktop computing, sourcing teams find themselves getting to grips with a whole range of change drivers — from the arrival of Microsoft Windows 7 to the new desktop usage preferences of younger employees, while still striving to keep costs down. In Forrester’s discussions of these trends with vendors, service providers, and buyer companies, desktop virtualization has been one of the most commonly mentioned areas of interest. Software vendors active in this area — like Citrix or VMware — promote the cost benefits of their virtualization technologies for enterprise customers. And outsourcing providers themselves have begun to sing a similar tune.

  • Cost reduction claims seem plausible… Certainly desktop virtualization has genuine potential to support cost reduction. What Forrester calls “hosted desktop virtualization” involves running the entire desktop environment — OS, tools, and apps — on a central set of servers, rather than each desktop. This largely eliminates costs associated with deskside support for apps maintenance, bug fixing and the like. It also offers potential to deploy lower-cost hardware for some categories of users, and extend the life of this hardware in service — as the servers handle the added performance load needed to support software upgrades, end users’ added usage requirements and similar.
  • …but there may be a fly in the ointment. Despite these advantages, desktop virtualization’s potential to reduce desktop outsourcing contract costs still looks cloudy. First off, consider the added spending needed on the server infrastructure when employing this model. The server farm will carry a higher processing load, and will need more highly specified storage systems, by comparison with a more conventional client/server architecture. Some firms may need to fund a network upgrade also, to cope with higher data transport demands. And of course there’s always the temptation for the outsourcing provider to skim off some of the cost benefits of the virtualized architecture, to shore up their own margins.


Forrester is very interested to hear how current users are getting along with hosted desktop virtualization — in particular how the cost equation has panned out. If you have some experiences you’d like to share with Forrester, then please post a comment in our blog forum.

Andrew Parker, Vice President and Principal Analyst