Rackspace and Citrix: Virtualization for Smartphones and Tablets

Rackspace is offering a hosted desktop virtualization service with Citrix that provides a way to virtualize all those tablets and smartphones that people are bringing to work.

It also takes the burden off the enterprise, which is having considerable difficulty figuring out how to bring together the multiple parties that are needed to offer a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution. As we noted in a recent post on the topic of virtual desktop infrastructure, it requires the desktop, storage, network, virtualization and data center teams to work together.

The mobile question is the big one here. The service allows the user to keep apps and data in a separate container. If lost, the apps can be disconnected by the administrator. That’s important but there is another aspect to this beyond security. And that’s the issue with storage and how a VDI infrastructure keeps performance optimized.

The Rackspace Hosted Virtual Desktop service includes integration with NetApp storage, which helps alleviate the issues that come when a number of people are on the network or go on all at once in a “boot storm.”

VMware, MokaFive and Quest are just a few of the companies that compete with Citrix in the VDI space. It’s a crowded market and one that analysts question. The difference here is the connection with Rackspace, a hosted service known for its focus on customer support. That means an organization can benefit from the Rackspace infrastructure and Citrix value as a desktop virtualization provider. That may be enough for companies as they adapt to the new mobile desktop environment.

There is also the question about how integration will be accomplished on a hosted service. How do you put all all the pieces together? If Rackspace and Citrix can tie their worlds together, it will help a lot.

The question I have is about the overall market. Gartner predicts that the growth in the market will take place in the next two years with 70 million people using VDI by 2014. According to a ComputerWorld story, IDC expects that by 2014, 34 million seats or 7% of all PC desktop shipments.

But it’s not clear that desktop virtualization has had much pick-up in the market. Maybe it’s the hosted aspect of the equation that will make the difference. Organizations may want the benefits that come with VDI but the infrastructure requirements are considerable. A hosted service may be more what customers are looking for as mobile devices continue to proliferate in the enterprise.

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