As server virtualization has exploded, the next piece of the puzzle is virtualizing desktops. In some of the first VMware implementations, users tried to virtualize small numbers of desktops for specific use cases. This process was difficult and had its problems. Also, if we go back to this time, the use of SSDs and flash within environments was small, if at all. 1GbE networking was becoming standard, and WiFi was in its infancy. There have been many updates, changes, and betterments to every type of technology.
In order for users to enjoy VDI, they must have the same or similar experience that is currently in use today. VDI from 10 years ago, 5 years ago, is completely different from today. Here are 5 reasons to move into VDI, and also, to be sure your VDI vendor provides:
1.) VDI Simplifies Administration
The beauty of VDI is simplified management. This comes in the form of centralized management, OS installation, and software patches and updates, all done out of the data center. There can be pooled users that always have a fresh instance when logging in, or there can be persistent users that have their own personal desktop just as a standard PC when logging in. This makes VDI great for call centers, libraries, and POS machines, yet featured enough to provide engineers, architects and other high end users with the power and functionality needed in their daily activities.
How often do power supplies and disk drives fail within PCs? How many times in order to fix a remote PC, POS machine, or laptop, has an administrator had to drive to the location, diagnose, repair, and drive back to the main campus. With a VDI environment using thin or zero clients, the MTBF of all the parts is dramatically reduced. Not only this, but in the event that a zero client fails, all that is needed to be done is to replace the zero client. This simply means connecting power, mouse, keyboard, network cables, and powering on. The user logs in with their credentials and they are back to work.
How many times has an office been closed due to flooding, ice or snow, power outages, or road/bridge repair work? How many workers have been stuck at home unable to make it to the office because of sickness, car trouble, or having to take a day off to wait for the cable guy? With VDI, the users can log in remotely using their laptops, or any type of BYOD, and keep business operations going from anywhere.
2.) VDI is Powerful
A user should not be able to feel a difference between a standard desktop and a VDI solution. Advances physically in graphics cards, networking, processors and storage have made it possible to run hundreds or thousands of VDI clients from a single location. If a mouse feels laggy, a system has higher latency, or screen resolution suffers, a user will notice. The physical attributes of the end user system must feel the same as the previous physical setup. There are many features that make VDI seamless, but an elegant implementation leads to user satisfaction.
Once a VDI solution is in place, the next step is to make sure there is a recovery plan in the event of site-wide disaster. How many PCs are currently backed up in the event something catastrophic would happen? What happens to local files when an end user’s HDD fails? With VDI, even if the entire primary infrastructure can be ruined, yet with a backup and DR plan in place, an entire workforce can have access to their desktops in a matter of moments.
3.) VDI is Secure
Security is paramount to all businesses. With every PC connected to the network, employees with ill-intentions can and will cause disruptions to business continuity. Of course, the range of security breaches can start with a file copy to USB device, or a SQL injection bringing down servers and disrupting services. Of course, some security vulnerabilities will always remain, but removing some and placing hurdles in front of others goes a long way. If we look at a typical VDI environment, we see that some changes occur to user data, how it is accessed, and where it resides. Using thin or zero clients, USB control can be locked down. All the data exchanged within the server and clients happens over a secure channel and is encrypted. User’s data resides within redundant servers instead of on hard drives of PCs or laptops. When a desktop is retired, security protocol has to be implemented, destroying the user’s HDD by whatever means deemed necessary just in case some form of sensitive data remains.
4.) VDI is Efficient
Efficiency comes in many forms. The administrator of the VDI will become more efficient with the interface over time. The admin will also become more time efficient once everything is running, and daily focus can be spent elsewhere instead of break/fix PC repair. The energy consumption of an entire company will be reduced creating a greener organization. This power reduction comes from the implementation of thin or zero clients in place of PCs. Typical clients run around 5-10 watts while a traditional PC can utilize 4 times this amount. Thin clients also can be remotely shut down when business hours end, further reducing energy consumption. Efficiency also comes from the manufacturing process where the amount of natural resources required to build a PC differs dramatically from that of a single thin client. And finally, the end users will become more efficient as they will experience more uptime, more availability of applications, and be able to work both locally and remotely.
5. VDI defines ROI
Return on Investment (ROI) is the largest factor when looking into VDI. Moving to virtualized desktops creates a more energy efficient environment. By continuing to replace more and more desktops with thin clients, VDI reduces OPEX over time which is great for the IT admin maintaining budget. In addition to lower operating expenditures, IT admins will see a time commitment they used to devote to desktop issues fade away. No longer do they need to replace failed hard drives, complete system wide updates on individual desktops or diagnose support tickets from anywhere besides their own desks. All desktop issues can be resolved in the VDI interface by logging into a user’s VM and identifying and eliminating the challenge. Whether the users are on site or at a remote location 1000 miles away, with VDI the IT admin is always ready to go.
The big picture is as follows, if it makes sense to install a centralized VDI infrastructure that provides more redundancy, better security, reduces total power consumption, enables network administrators to focus on tasks other than pc repair and software updates, allows users the ability to access their desktop from anywhere, and provides a pleasant experience for the end user, then it’s time to look into VDI.