When should I implement a VDI Solution in my company?
In every IT purchasing cycle, there is a period between workstation refresh and server replacement projects when management must evaluate new technologies and new hardware to meet the growing needs of their company. Many IT managers have already realized the benefits of server virtualization and are now looking seriously at stepping up to the next level, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI. VDI is the technology of moving user’s desktop environments from local individual workstations (desktops/laptops) to a centralized server that creates individual desktop sessions over a secure data connection. This allows users to access their personal “desktop” from almost any Internet-enabled device in the world. There are many advantages and disadvantages to consider when evaluating VDI solutions for your company and many vendor and/or services options that must be explored and evaluated in your environment before you make a decision.
One of the most significant advantages to implementing VDI is the added security benefit. With VDI solutions, all hardware, data and software is stored in a centralized datacenter and never leaves the premises. No more shipping application suites to remote users or spending long weekends auditing physical licenses. Another key benefit to VDI is the simplified management of hardware and software that it offers. VDI provides centralized desktop management and standardization which translates to fewer software incompatibility issues and more efficient application development.
Another gain of VDI implementation is the maintenance cost savings. With all the hardware in a centralized location there is no need to maintain expensive server rooms at branch offices. To extend the corporate savings even further, users can connect with cheaper thin-client computers or their own personal computers, tablets, and even smartphones for a zero-dollar end-user workstation investment. Another advantage of the VDI solution is with all the workload being handled in the virtual environment thin-clients tend to run up to three times longer than standard workstations. This means that more savings can be recouped with workstation refresh cycles moved from every two or three years to every six to nine years.
The initial investment, depending on the vendor solution, can range in price depending upon the project requirements. Even after factoring in end-user workstation savings, increased uptime, and recovered maintenance costs many experts still debate the true return on investment of most initial VDI implementations. Evaluating and investing in a new VDI solution without thoroughly testing with current corporate assets is a common and costly mistake.
There is a lack of desktop personalization that needs to be considered. Although this is considered by most IT managers to be a minor issue, this small factor can make or break a VDI implementation project when it comes to user buy in and support.
Another disadvantage of VDI implementations is that no matter how robust your VDI solution is, some applications still will not perform as well over a network as they do on a local workstation. Examples include programs with a great deal of multimedia such as training programs. Engineering software also requires special considerations.
The best solution for most small to medium-sized businesses is a hybrid implementation of VDI that deploys new desktop virtualization for most staff while leveraging existing desktops for select users. This provides the options of moving all users to a VDI solution while still allowing some users to maintain traditional workstations for certain types of work such as programming, which often requires highly custom sets of software tools and large amounts of disk space. This hybrid solution would also allow IT managers to avoid a loss in the full investment dollars spent on new high-end workstations still under manufacturer warranty.
Although VDI technology has been around since 2002 with early customer adoption as early as 2004, it’s only with the most recent advances (and price breaks) in storage and multi-processor technologies that VDI products have become a real possibility for small to medium-sized companies with modest IT budgets. Comprehensive solutions from the major vendors including VMWare, Citrix, Red Hat and Microsoft and others range in price and capability. With a little more research and resource planning, more agile product sets can be found that provide scalable, off-the-shelf answers for under $100,000. For companies that don’t necessarily have the capital to invest in VDI, another option altogether would be cloud service providers that offer comprehensive cloud services that include virtual desktop solutions called DaaS or “Desktop as a Service.” For a moderate setup and monthly service fee, these service providers will setup and maintain the hardware/network infrastructure in a secure off-site datacenter, saving valuable time, capital expense and rack space.
Presented above are some key advantages and disadvantages to implementing a VDI solution for your company, a solution for the best chance of success in implementing VDI, and several vendors and purchasing options that meet any IT budget. This information has been presented in order to help IT managers move past the question of, “Should I implement a VDI solution in my company?” and on to the question of, “When should I implement a VDI solution in my company?”
Tim Averill is the chief executive officer and founder of Averill Consulting Group Inc., an IT services company headquartered in Sparks. He is also the CEO and founder of SkyBox Cloud LLC. Contact him at Tim.Averill@AverillConsulting.com.
For Reno’s Marc Magarin, finding opportunities to collaborate with fellow creative thinkers and passionate entrepreneurs is what drew him into a coworking space.