Microsoft has offered Session virtualisation (aka presentation virtualisation) for many years. Initially, through Terminal Services and more recently with RDS (Remote Desktop Services). RDS Remote App allows for a centrally managed and server hosted application to be presented to remote users via a simple RDP client. RDP Clients are widely available across a range of platforms and devices, thus removing the need for clients to be using a specific OS version.
An alternative to session virtualisation is application virtualisation which Microsoft provides through App-V. The key difference being that session virtualisation is server hosted, while App-V applications run on the client device (although they are not installed in the traditional sense). App-V has all the benefits of centrally managed software combined with the benefits of removing any application conflicts on the clients. App-V is part of MDOP (Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack). App-V applications can also be extended to non-windows devices through partner tools such as Citrix XenApp.
Desktops can be presented to users via both session virtualisation and VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). They are quite similar technologies, the key difference is that instead of presenting the user with a shared computing session from a server, VDI users are presented with a full desktop from a virtual machine. This provides users with a fully customisable and personal computing experience. A VDI server typically supports fewer users than an RDS environment. Storing numerous large VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) Images can also take up valuable disk space, although some VDI solutions make use of sophisticated differencing technologies to save space. VDI desktops are also presented to users via an RDP client. Presenting a full desktop experience to users via RDP is a good way of providing a school standard desktop and applications regardless of user device type or location, distance learners for example.
For more information on our thoughts around the concept of Consumerisation of IT in Education, download our paper on the topic via our SlideShare account. Alternatively, the full paper can be viewed below.