In these days of limited resources – often both staff and budget – IT shops are looking for technology that offers more flexibility and ease of management. Enter the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI is the practice of hosting a desktop operating system within a virtual machine (VM) running on a centralized server. The desktop images can then be accessed by different types of devices such as desktop, laptops, thin clients and mobile devices.
A variation of the client/server model, VDI can have a significant affect to overall costs of each desktop – both capital and operational expenses (CAPEX and OPEX). Single images can be built that are then shared out to each user for different operations.
Virtualization can look just like an everyday Microsoft Windows-style desktop or just show a simple environment that includes applications pushed to users via policies. These environments go further into flexibility by being fully available every time login occurs or rebuilt with each login to show a fresh environment.
I’ve created the simple graphic below to outline the differences between a standard desktop lifecycle versus a simplified VDI lifecycle to illustrate the benefits of the latter:
I’ve identified five major benefits to implementing VDI:
- Utilization of Same Image
The first benefit of VDI is that desktops can use the same image. The OS, as well as applications that are installed, decreases organizational and support costs. Images will need to be tested as new applications are introduced, and either additional images will need to be created or adjustments will have to be made to the current build. Also, depending on your model, if you use persistent desktops, incremental storage space will be needed for VDI servers since user needs vary, i.e. saving private settings if users are allowed to install their own applications.
- More Options for Expensive Desktop Upgrades
While an investment in server hardware and storage infrastructure may be required, keep in mind that everything will be hosted in the data center, therefore, there may not be a need for a huge collection of standard PCs in the office.
If staff is working within a mobile, bring-your-own-device environment, you can run the same environment on tablets as you would experience on high-end desktops. This model also opens the door the thin client desktops and Chromebooks that can be replaced in mere minutes instead of hours.
These options will deliver the required environment to all users uniformly and give flexibility to administrators to adjust the environmental variables such as memory allocation and storage per environment on the fly.
- Management of a Single OS Can Reduce Costs
Because everything is hosted in the data center, admins will have to install drivers, patches and applications only once and every user – depending upon that image – benefits from the update. Also, it’s important to make sure all the administrators learn everything about the VDI software.
- Troubleshooting Problems is Easier
Today, support staffs have a tedious task of running out to physical PCs. This has been reduced by different models of VDI. As images can be accessed from any linked workstation, any user facing hardware trouble on their usual systems can go to another one and access their data and applications simply by logging in and having their policy based apps and rules pushed to them.
- Data is More Secure
Another important benefit is that data and images will be in the safe zone in the data center. You can now utilize standard data center tools to manage the security.
In summary, VDI desktops are reliable and manageable and can create a mirrored or custom end-user computing experience on multiple available systems.
Be warned though that one area to watch out for is the need for constant storage. This need can grow quickly as most end users will save, adjust and want terabytes of data saved. There can be a constant state of growth as your employee base increases, in addition to staff using of e-discovery software.
With these points in mind, it is easy to see why the flexible and quickly upgradable states of VDI-style access can be something that organizations should take a serious look at to see if this will increase infrastructure usability. This applies not only to standard desktops, laptops and thin clients, but also for the explosion of mobile devices that are expecting the same secure access as their bigger cousin systems.
To learn more about how virtualization can help simplify your company’s IT needs and increase ROI, visit CDW’s Virtualization page. Also, check out our collection of virtualization white papers, data sheets and articles for more information.