The drawback – really just a different way of doing things – comes when a software patch must be installed. Under the traditional PC model, that meant enlisting the aid of the help desk to update each machine. Under the virtualization model, only the master image of the software being pushed out to the zero client needs to be patched. That requires a different skill set in the data center, but saves considerable time by essentially only needing to be performed once.
As the rules of the HIPAA Omnibus legislation breathe down healthcare IT's neck, with hair-raising tales of breaches starting with rogue USB drives and missing hard disks, the kind of centralized management represented by virtualization and zero client technology is a siren song.
And right behind that is next April's retirement of Windows XP, still in use on too many desktops in healthcare. Virtualization is the natural replacement for XP, although it requires the master image to be at least based on Windows 7 if the same Windows apps will be used, Fear says.
Laptops and tablets and phones aren't immediately touched by this virtualization wave the way the desktop is, although my cover story on tablets back in January found a number of healthcare IT shops allowing access to desktops through virtual sessions implemented on tablets.