Lots of technology choices come down to that. Standardization is easier for IT, but can constrain how users work. Flexibility may make users more productive, but also require more exceptions and workarounds burdening IT. Are virtual desktops any different?

Well, it depends how you implement them. If you want standardization, provisioning virtual desktops can make standardization extremely easy. Duplicate an existing desktop, assign a unique ID and tell the connection broker. Done. If you stream the OS image from a common image that is easily maintained, IT cycles should be greatly reduced.

If you want customization, virtual desktops can allow each user a unique instance of the OS to modify to their hearts’ content. Ok, you’ll have a huge number of OS images to maintain and there aren’t enough tools to automate that today, but each user gets flexibility.

What if you want standardization and flexibility? Can each user have their cake and IT eat it, too? Potentially, yes. First, when the OS image is streamed into a virtual machine from a standard “gold” image, Citrix can provide a personalization profile, so the users’ configuration customizations are reapplied every time. This preserves the efficiency of one OS image to maintain, but lets users set the desktop up according to what works best for them. Then, the Windows applications beyond the standard desktop are either streamed in by Presentation Server, or virtualized and served by Presentation Server. This allows IT to provide a menu of hundreds of applications, without having to bloat the common desktop image. The virtual desktops can also have “instant on” capability and other enhancements to make user experience even better.

While IT occasionally has to make a difficult choice about practicality of maintaining something versus the productivity benefits to users, virtual desktops may well minimize that tension, and potentially improve both at the same time.

What are your hopes or concerns for how virtual desktops impact maintainability and user productivity?