Akamai Joins Push for Desktop Virtualization Services into the Mainstream

Sep.30.09 | About: Akamai Technologies, (AKAM)

Call it a trend – and not just a virtual one. Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ:AKAM) is the latest tech firm to join the effort to push desktop virtualization into the mainstream with the salient message of swift return on investment (ROI) and lower total costs for PC desktop delivery.

Akamai joins HP (NYSE:HPQ), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), VMware (NYSE:VMW), as well as Citrix (NASDAQ:CTXS), Desktone and a host of others in the quest to advance the cause of desktop virtualization (aka VDI) in a sour economy. Better known for optimizing delivery of web content, video, dynamic transactions and enterprise applications online, Akamai just introduced a managed Internet service that optimizes the delivery of virtualized client applications and PC desktops.

Akamai isn’t starting from scratch. The company is leveraging core technology from its IP Application Accelerator solution to offer a new service that promises cost-efficiency, scalability and the global reach to deliver applications over virtual desktop infrastructure products offered by Citrix, Microsoft and VMware.

“We see the desktop virtualization market poised for significant growth and believe that our unique managed services model allows us to work with enterprises on large, global deployments of their virtual desktop infrastructure,” says Willie Tejada, vice president of Akamai’s Application and Site Acceleration group, in a release.

Since Akamai launched its IP Application Accelerator, Tejada reports good traction beyond browser-based applications. Now, he’s betting Akamai’s new customized offering will make room for the company to focus even more on virtualization. He’s also betting enterprise customers will appreciate the new pricing model. With IP Application Accelerator targeted for VDI, Akamai is rolling out concurrent user-based pricing and customized integrations through professional services to virtual desktops.

Significant growth
Tejada is right about one thing: the expected and significant growth of virtual desktop connected devices. Gartner predicts this sector will grow to about 66 million by the end of 2014. That translates to 15 percent of all traditional professional desktop PCs. With these numbers on hand, it’s clear that enterprises are rapidly adopting virtualization as a key component of cost-containment efforts.

I think we're facing an inflection point for desktop virtualization, fueled by the pending Windows 7 release, pent-up refresh demand on PCs generally, and the need for better security and compliance on desktops. Add to that economic drivers of reducing client support labor costs, energy use, and the need to upgrade hardware, and Gartner's numbers look conservative.

Device makers are hastening the move to VDI with thin clients (both PCs and notebooks) that add all the experience of the full PC but in the size of a ham sandwich and for only a few hundred dollars. Hold the mayo!

But there are yet challenges to guaranteeing the performance and scale of VDI across wide area networks. Akamai points out three in particular. First is the user’s proximity from a centralized virtualization environment. It has a direct impact on performance and availability. Second, virtual protocols consume large amounts of bandwidth. Third, there is traditionally a high cost, as well as uptime issues, associated with private-WAN connections in emerging territories where outsourcing and off-shoring are commonplace.

Akamai is not only promising its service will overcome all those challenges, it’s also suggesting that working with its solution on the virtualization front may eliminate the need to build out or upgrade costly private networks limited by a preset reach and scale. How does Akamai do this? By allowing for highly scalable and secure virtual desktop deployments to anyone, anywhere, across an Internet-based platform spanning 70 countries.

According to Akamai, its technology is designed to eliminate latency introduced by Internet routing, packet loss, and constrained throughput. The company also says that performance improvements can be realized through several techniques including dynamic mapping, route optimization, packet redundancy algorithms, and transport protocol optimization.

As for Akamai’s IP Application Accelerator targeted for VDI, we’ll have to wait and see the case studies of customers relying on the new solution, but the promises are, well, promising. If you have a lot of PCs in calls centers or managing a lot of remote locations, give VDI a look. It's time has come from a technology, network performance, cost and long-term economics perspective.

Disclosure: Akamai is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.