It’s an increasingly virtualized world, especially in the IT department. Virtual storage. Virtual servers. Virtual networks. And now, after years of false starts, virtual desktops are a viable technology.
Virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, hosts your “desktop” environments on a remote server, instead of storing them on each employee’s PC. At login, the operating system and user data are loaded via a network connection and presented on the user’s PC or terminal. Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) extends that model by managing the images, data, and user profiles in the cloud, via a managed services provider.
Last year, TechTarget ran a “Top 10” list of the biggest shakeups in the world of virtual desktops. These included new VDI releases from leaders like VMware and Citrix, workstations with dedicated GPU’s, full-blown DaaS solutions and more. The main takeaway? 2014 marked the year when the virtual desktop came of age.
Here are some decisions you’ll face if you plan to replace your aging desktops with this latest IT trend.
What’s your planning horizon?
Successful infrastructure planning examines tomorrow’s needs as wells today’s. This is critical in physical infrastructure, since expanding a capital equipment budget on the fly isn’t a simple matter. Nor is finding the staff needed to configure and deploy those new desktop machines.
Planning for VDI also requires foresight, since you still have to worry about new equipment and software licenses. DaaS allows for a more flexible planning process. Since the equipment and licenses are usually leased “per-seat,” there’s little or no capex investment.
Storage, storage, storage – Where and how much?
You’ll also have to decide how much storage is needed for the desktop images, applications and user data – not to mention where that storage will be. With traditional desktops, each PC store the data on a local disk. With VDI, that information resides on a server – making for more cost-effective storage. With DaaS, the storage is in the cloud, meaning you can expand as needed without worrying about location and size limitations.
How personal will your computing environment be?
In any VDI solution, you’ll have to decide between non-persistent and persistent images.
A non-persistent image provides a “template” environment with a set of pre-configured applications. Any changes a user makes are “reset” when they log off. The small number of templates makes image management simpler and requires less storage capacity. However, the lack of personalization can frustrate users and become a barrier to adoption.
Persistent images provide users the feel of a traditional PC environment. Each user has his own image, profile, applications and even desktop wallpaper, and their desktop remains consistent from one login to the next. The downside is that it requires a full image for each user – each of which has to be managed and updated individually.
DIY or managed service?
Will you host all these desktop images on a local server, or in the cloud? How many IT staff will you assign to maintain the images, the users and the various endpoint devices – whether PCs, terminals or tablets? All VDI deployments require a knowledgeable staff.
Using a managed services provider, on the other hand, can ease the pain by providing the needed expertise. Taken one step further, a DaaS provider will also handle the licensing, the storage and even the client hardware to be deploy on all your desktops.
How much will you save?
For many organizations, deciding to go virtual comes down to cost savings. All the other decisions – capacity, storage, persistence and staffing – contribute to that savings.
When calculating your potential savings, consider the following:
- Cloud storage is cheaper and simpler to manage than individual or shared hard drives.
- Hi-speed networks and thin clients can deliver desktop-like performance to your users.
- VDI solutions lower your capital hardware and maintenance costs.
- Cloud-based DaaS solutions, like SimplePC, can replace your existing desktop infrastructure, complete with high-performance terminals and expert staff – for a virtually capex-free solution.
Have you deployed a VDI or Desktop-as-a-Service solution in your organization, or are you planning to in 2015 or 2016? If so, use the Comments section to tell us about your experience.