A Virtual Desktop Analogy – Rooms and Properties

One of the techniques that I like to use when discussing technology with customers and colleagues is analogy. I find that it helps to break through the barriers of technology terminology and acronyms. It creates a picture in people’s heads that they can relate to.

Granddad wonders what a virtual desktop is?I’ve recently really enjoyed reading the analogy for Virtual Desktops put forward by Andreas Groth on IBM’s Thoughts on the Cloud Blog:

The virtual desktop arena is particularly mired in terminology and acronyms. For starters, what is a desktop anyway? Is it the top of this desk I’m sitting at? Is it the device that’s sitting on top of the desk? Is it the layout of the things on the screens that I am looking at? Well, of course, it’s all three of them depending on the context, even though the device that I’m currently using is a laptop. What does virtual really mean anyway? So when we start talking about shared virtual desktops, persistent virtual desktops, dedicated virtual desktops, local virtual desktops, pooled virtual desktops, etc. it just adds to the confusion. Virtual applications anyone?

Andreas’ analogy uses different residency types (hotels, private residence, etc.) as a parallel for the different virtual desktop types.

  • The hotel is analogous to the basic pooled virtual desktop approach. It has all of the basic capabilities you require. It’s the same every time you go into it because it’s serviced. You’re allowed to take some of your own stuff in, but you have to take it with you when you go.
  • The private residence is analogous to the dedicated virtual desktop approach. It’s yours, you can do what you like inside it. If you break it then you’ll have to fix it yourself, or hire someone in to do a professional repair. You may check into a hotel room while it’s being fixed, but it won’t be home.

He then extends this parallel to look at the different perspectives that people have about the residency – the occupier sees things differently to the property manager.

A really good analogy isn’t there to provide all of the answers, it’s there to help you get a different insight, and this one does.

It provides the insight about why people don’t really like the hotel approach (pooled virtual desktops). They generally have no technical reason, or even a functional reason for disliking it, it’s just that the desktop experience has become personal to them and you can’t really personalise a hotel room. Likewise, some people will, given the choice, always live in a hotel, because they like the way it’s serviced.

Another insight is the difference in costs and charging models. You generally pay for a hotel on a per-night basis, but you take out a longer term relationship for a private residence. Perhaps we are doing ourselves is disservice by viewing them as the same in the virtual desktop world.

I suppose that in this analogy a local virtual desktop on a  laptop is a gypsy caravan. It’s where you live, you can do what you like to it, and you carry it around with you. What do you think?

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