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Definition: desktop virtualization

A thin client architecture in which the operating system and applications do not run in the user's PC but run instead in a separate partition in a server on the network. The partition is known as a "virtual machine." Commonly called "virtual desktop infrastructure" (VDI), the desktop is delivered over the network to the user's PC in real time.

Like Early Mainframes and Terminals
The PC functions only as an input/output (I/O) terminal to a central server that performs all the processing. This is just like the early days of terminals connected to mainframes, except that the graphics-based desktop is delivered to the user rather than plain text. Desktop virtualization can also be performed within the user's own computer (see client virtualization). See thin client, virtual machine, Terminal Services and Remote Desktop Services.