Why ‘Endpoint Virtualization’?

Back in September 2009, EMA released a research report that I authored, titled Real World Experiences of Endpoint Virtualization*. In it, I defined and used a new term (for EMA), ‘Endpoint Virtualization’. 

In the report, I defined ‘Endpoint Virtualization’ as:

a (mostly) new set of technologies aimed at abstracting the end user experience – typically their logical desktop, application, and/or workspace environments – from the physical systems they rely on to provide that experience – typically a physical desktop or laptop PC.

This primary research covered many different technologies, including:

  • Application Isolation – where an application is installed locally, but in a ‘bubble’, ‘sandbox’, or ‘layer’ that does not use the standard installation (e.g. VMware ThinApp, Novell ZENworks Application Virtualization)
  • Remote Application Virtualization – where end users access a single-user application hosted on a remote/data-center system on the corporate LAN (e.g. Citrix XenApp, Microsoft App-V)
  • Application or OS streaming – where an application or desktop OS is delivered incrementally from a remote/data-center system on the corporate LAN (e.g. Symantec Workspace Streaming, Endeavors)
  • Remote (server-hosted) desktop virtualization – where a user accesses a full desktop environment from a remote/data-center system on the corporate LAN (e.g. Quest vWorkspace, Citrix XenDesktop)
  • Local (client-hosted) OS virtualization – where a user runs multiple independent operating environment(s) locally on top of their standard operating system (e.g. MokaFive, VMware Fusion)
  • Client-Side Hypervisor – where a user runs multiple independent operating environment(s) locally directly on the BIOS, without an underlying operating system (e.g. Virtual Computer NxTop, Neocleus)
  • Browser-based applications – applications hosted on a corporate Web server, accessed over the LAN via a Web browser, with little or no local code installation (typically custom or in-house)
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – individual applications hosted by a third party, accessed over the Internet via a Web browser, with little or no local code installation (e.g. Salesforce.com, PingConnect)
  • Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) – entire end-user desktop environments hosted by a third party, accessed over the public Internet, with little or no local code (e.g. Desktone, Doyenz)

What I did not explain, and what a number of people have asked me since, is “Why does EMA use the term ‘Endpoint Virtualization’?”

A number of terms have been used by various analysts, media,  vendors, and users to describe this space. However, I don’t think anyone is looking at or defining the same breadth of the market as EMA and I do. Given the research data that showed these technologies were barely separable in real world use cases, I needed a a single term that covered all of them.

My  first thought (that I used in all the drafts of this report) was ‘end-user-facing virtualization’. While accurate and descriptive, it is too cumbersome to be usable, so I always knew that was going to be replaced.

I also rejected all the other terms I have seen for various reasons:

  • Desktop virtualization, application virtualization – both too narrow for the broad space I was researching, with each excluding the other
  • Client virtualization – the legacy of ‘client-server’, common usage of ‘client’ to mean ‘customer’, and lack of breadth killed this for me
  • Presentation virtualization -  only describes remote delivery, so excludes local virtualization, SaaS, browser apps, etc.
  • User virtualization – does not work for me at all, because I think of users as people, not technologies
  • Workspace virtualization – too specific to desktop virtualization, plus a ‘workspace’ is anything from a cubicle to a bench with a drill-press

What’s more, the end user experience is more than just desktops and laptops. VMware CTO Stephen Herrod spoke at VM Forum Sydney (my home town) about VMware on Android, and VMware desktop CTO Scott Davis has been talking Android on his blog too. Similarly, Citrix’s CEO Mark Templeton demonstrated Citrix Receiver for iPhone as far back as May 2009**.

So I looked at the term ‘endpoint’, a term used commonly in IT management, and by many different vendors, in phrases such as in ‘endpoint management’, ‘endpoint security’, ‘endpoint encryption’, ‘data endpoint’, ‘endpoint provisioning’, etc. By most definitions, ‘endpoint’ accommodates all the ways the computing experiences can be made available to, and used by, an end user – including PCs, Macs, desktops, laptops, & mobile devices; centralized or Internet-based delivery mechanisms as well as local implementations; full desktop operating systemsor just individual applications; and both online or offline use cases.

Thus, I settled on ‘Endpoint Virtualization’ as EMA’s standard term for these various technologies.

Will it hold up over time? Will an irresistible groundswell form behind some other term that will force me to change? It is hard to tell, and I am certainly interested in your opinions. For now though, I think this is the best possible term, and will continue to use it throughout my writings and presentations with EMA.


* Shameless plug – I am presenting a free Webinar to review some of the research on Dec 3rd – you can register for it at EMA’s website

** Off-topic – what is it with vendor C-level elites targeting edge platforms like Android and iPhone? Seems to me it would be more useful if they targeted the enterprise-friendly mobile platforms that more real business users work on – like Blackberry or Windows Mobile. But that is a rant for another time 🙂

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