Many companies not comfortable leaping completely into the cloud are keeping one foot on the ground (aka a hybrid cloud environment). This approach will also characterize many companies’ eventual relationships to desktops. That’s because sometimes virtualized desktops make sense and sometimes they don’t. Examples of the latter include when you need to work offline or when you want to reduce network and storage strain from all that image pooling required by virtual desktop centralization.

So, to reflect this approach, the hybrid desktop was born. You can also think of it as the rebirth of personalization.

In previous incarnations of the virtualized desktop, image updates totally wiped out any personalization the user added – stuff like apps, personalized settings and user data. Hybrid methods let the user keep personalization, since they typically update a base image layer and leave the user layer untouched. Beyond capturing the desktop architecture consistency advantage of virtualized desktops, this hybrid approach also captures the additional storage space, processing and graphics of the PC. Further, it improves productivity by allowing people to retain the desktop they want without having to re-personalize after every update.

Pam Baker has written hundreds of articles in leading technology, business and finance publications. She has also authored several analytical studies on technology, eight books and an award-winning documentary on paper-making. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and the Internet Press Guild (IPG). She can be reached at and on Twitter at @bakercom1.

The hybrid desktop has other advantages as well. Chief among them is asynchronous communications. The user can work offline and everything will sync with the data center as soon as the user reconnects to the network. This is infinitely more efficient than a system that can only work when the endpoint is connected.

Hybrid desktops are cheaper and more scalable too, considering that thousands can be supported by a single node compared to the mere dozens a true VDI environment can support.

What happens to the desktop OS in all this remains to be seen. The desktop OS conundrum is covered well in a previous RWW story by David Strom.

There are a number of vendors already moving to capitalize on the strengths of a hybrid desktop. The current lineup includes Intel’s Intelligent Desktop Virtualization system and its tie-in with RES’s Virtual Desktop Extender; a hodgepodge of smaller firms such as Wanova with its Mirage platform; and then there’s Citrix dabbling in the issue with its recently acquired RingCube Technologies.

Look for more players to enter the field shortly. There is just too much sense in the idea to leave money on the table (or on the desktop so to speak).