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What is desktop virtualization?

Desktop virtualization explained

Desktop virtualization is the process of separating the desktop environment and associated application software from the physical client device that is used to access it. According to Gartner, desktop virtualization is described as “technology that decouples a PC desktop environment from a physical device so that the virtual machine (VM) of the PC desktop stored in a centralized server can be accessed from a remote client device through a network”.1

Techopedia expands on this definition and notes that “desktop virtualization is also known as client virtualization because the client-server computing model is used in virtualizing desktops” and that desktop virtualization is a “technology that separates an individual's PC applications from their desktop and provides a way for users to maintain their individual desktops on a single, central server that they’re connected to from a LAN, WAN, or simply over the Internet”.2  

A popular type of desktop virtualization is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI uses a VM to deliver persistent or nonpersistent virtual desktops to many types of connected devices. With a persistent virtual desktop, each user has a unique, dedicated desktop image they can customize with apps and data, knowing the desktop will be saved for future use. A nonpersistent VDI allows users to access a virtual desktop from an identical pool when they need it. Once the user logs out of a nonpersistent VDI, the VDI reverts to its unaltered state.

In TechTarget, authors Brien Posey, Colin Steele, and Jack Madden explain that “desktop virtualization works by employing hardware virtualization technology. Virtual desktops exist as VMs running on a virtualization host [and sharing] the host server's processing power, memory, and other resources”.3

The primary consideration when deciding where to put your virtualization layer is “where are the backend resources that the virtualization layer will be providing access to?” Consider a client and server SAP server (environment). Here’s a visualization of SAP server in a data center with the clients (or users) in another location (typically in an on-site office):

One way to optimize the user experience is to place the virtualization layer in the same data center or cloud location. Failure to do so may result in a poor user experience since each hop adds to the reduced performance of the app, as shown in the multi-hop example below.

What is the importance of desktop virtualization in the future of work?

The advent of COVID-19 has permanently altered workplace practices, requiring flexible and hybrid working options for most enterprises. Remote work policies have been widely implemented, with the vast majority favoring hybrid as the standard, allowing individuals to work in the office and from their home or any location with a secure Internet connection.

Hybrid models combine pre-COVID-19 patterns of office-based working with remote work. When implemented correctly, this type of work pattern can provide immersive collaboration and include team building, while also offering greater flexibility and the opportunity for focused work at home. The Riverbed and Aternity Hybrid Work Global Survey 2021 suggests that after the pandemic, most employees either want to continue to work remotely or work in a hybrid model.4

With that said, it’s impossible to predict the future of how people will work, especially as the pace of technological change seems to increase every year. Today’s IT infrastructure is continually evolving and becoming more complex due to this rapid change while today’s workers have different workplace expectations and approaches to how they perform their day-to-day tasks. Security and compliance remain high priorities as organizations shift to cloud or hybrid cloud infrastructure.  

Desktop virtualization is a crucial tool for rethinking the workplace strategy and reducing costs. Citrix’s Harness the virtualization technology that’s right for your hybrid infrastructure and your business goals notes that “an almost-equal percentage [of IT leaders] leverage a hybrid hosting strategy that combines on-premises and public cloud (48%) or a cloud-first strategy (42%) as per the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) Trends Survey”.5

VMware’s Preparing Your Remote Work Environment for the Long Haul adds “there are many ways to use desktop and app virtualization to enable remote work, and it’s increasingly common to see multiple techniques in use at the same time”.6

What are the benefits of desktop virtualization

In an office-first model, people are typically expected to begin working and stop working on a consistent schedule, such as between 9 am and 5 pm every workday. In a hybrid work model, employees have more flexibility to get work done when they’re most productive. It’s not uncommon for some people to work best early in the morning while others perform better in the evening. A flexible hybrid model allows employees to choose to work with teammates on-site or do heads-down work from a remote location.

Improved work-life balance for employees

This flexibility may be a key reason why employees are attracted to the hybrid work model. Establishing a better work-life balance is easier in a flexible work arrangement. When employees have more control of their work schedules, they can free up time to take care of them as-needed things from their personal lives, such as getting groceries, picking up kids from daycare or school, or being home for a delivery.

Reduce exposure to illness for everyone on-site

Many employees say they’re worried about their health and safety when it comes to returning to work. Having fewer people in the workplace reduces the risk of illness transmission among the employees that are on-site. Enterprises can also require health screenings and proof of vaccination for employees who want to return to the office. With a hybrid model, employees who may be ill and want to continue to work can continue their productivity from home.

Enterprises can reduce cost on real estate expenses

In a hybrid work model, fewer people are on-site at any given time. For some enterprises, this means they don’t need to hold on to costly real estate investments and can be a catalyst for recalculating how much office space they need. This avenue allows enterprises to scale back their office space to a smaller size or even rent out office space, gaining additional revenue and potentially offsetting the cost of office space.  

Hire talent across the globe

Hypothetically, if an enterprise is no longer based in a single geographic location, they can hire talent from all around the world and access a wider talent pool of people with specialized skills, giving them a competitive edge over rival enterprises that require employees to work onsite. This flexibility could also help an enterprise to move into new markets and ensure productivity.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) vs Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS)

There are two principal mechanisms for delivering a virtual desktop experience to a user: VDI and desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). The authors of TechTarget’s What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure? VDI Explained eGuide states that “the difference between these two mechanisms is simply a matter of who owns the infrastructure”.7 They continue that “the business locally creates and manages the underlying virtualization and resulting virtual desktops, with VDI [so the company] manages the creation and upkeep of all the virtual desktop images, [and] the ownership and operation of the VDI servers”.7

By leveraging VDI, companies can gain control over virtual desktop environments (VDE) while adhering to strict compliance rules and security regulations. “However, the additional costs of buying, installing and maintaining VDI servers and software may be prohibitive for some small businesses”.7

One reason that DaaS is becoming more common today is how accessible it is for enterprises. “With DaaS, a third-party provider creates and manages the virtualization environment and virtual desktops, [including] not only the virtual desktop itself but also apps and support”.3 The third-party provider “owns and operates the VDI servers and controls the creation and provisioning of virtual desktop images, [so] the business simply "rents" virtual desktops from the provider who provisions the requested instances and makes them available to users”.7

Why Kyndryl?

A great user experience is an essential part of any workplace technology. Kyndryl allows organizations to detect and evade potential threats with the help of tools including analytics to provide a consistent experience. We proactively address issues before security incidents occur or employees begin to submit helpdesk tickets.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are used to provide real-time insights into user behavior and to automate the process of preventing cyber security breaches, all while maintaining a reliable digital workspace experience for employees. Kyndryl also has digital experience management. Kyndryl’s solution contains sensors trending data enabling us to sense common issues and push proactive remediation that can run without user interruption. 

Kyndryl’s desktop virtualization solution facilitates security features like reverse connect, multi-factor authentication (MFA), conditional access and role-based account capabilities, and superior performance due to advanced user-profile management. Organizations could experience an improved total cost of ownership (TCO) because of the consumption billing. It also reduces datacenter requirements by moving those workloads from the traditional data center into the cloud.


  1. Desktop VirtualizationGartner Glossary, 1 November 2022.
  2. Desktop VirtualizationTechopedia, 3 January 2013.
  3. Desktop Virtualization, Brien Posey, Colin Steele, and Jack Madden, TechTarget, October 2020.
  4. Aternity Hybrid Work Global Survey 2021Riverbed, 2021.
  5. Harness the virtualization technology that’s right for your hybrid infrastructure—and your business goalsCitrix Systems, Inc., 2020.
  6. Preparing Your Remote Work Environment for the Long HaulVMware, 2020.
  7. What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure? VDI Explained, TechTarget, 2020.
  8. What is desktop virtualization, VMware, 2022
  9. Desktop Virtualization: an Art to Manage and Maintain affordable PC infrastructure, Fayyaz Khalid, Umar Shoaib, Shahzad Sarfraz, Journal of Computer Science IJCSIS, March 2013
  10. Desktop Virtualization for Dummies, Dale Vile, Tony Lock, Martin Atherton, Jon Collins, Wiley, October 7, 2017