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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure-VDI-Pro’s and Con’s

In the past 6 months BVA has seen a tremendous push towards (VDI) Virtual Desktop Infrastructure which is unique in my eyes, for the most part it is because we have come full circle.  About 10 years ago there was a tremendous push toward thin-clients and dumb terminals which had a lot of success back then.  After a few years of this, organizations decided to move back to heavy client models mostly due to workstations lowering their cost.  Regardless of how we got to this point, VDI is back and more popular than ever.  BVA has deployed over four VDI solutions in the past three months with minimal hurdles and we are getting great reviews from the client via user experience.

Lets talk about VDI and what it is and is not.  Basically Virtualization technology can provide virtual desktops to your users which, over time, will save you on hardware cost as well as administration. All of us are familiar with the concept of virtual platforms/servers and using this technology to virtualize server applications (like SQL server, print servers, or other dedicated servers). VDI takes this a step farther.

Here are the steps to using VDI:

  1. Create a virtual machine
  2. Install a VDI Connection Broker – this Connection Broker is what determines which Remote Desktop Host a user is assigned or should be connected to. Here are some of the connection brokers available today:
    • ChipPC Virtual Desktop Center
    • Citrix Desktop Broker for Presentation Server
    • Dunes Virtual Desktop Orchestrator (VD-O) and Virtual Service Orchestrator (VS-O)
    • LeoStream Virtual Desktop Connection Broker
    • Propero workSpace
    • Provision Networks Virtual Access Suite (VAS)
  3. Install a desktop operating system on that VM, such as Windows XP or Windows Vista
  4. Install desktop applications on the VM
  5. Allow remote access to that virtual desktop system over the network using any number of possible remote control options

VDI is basically thin-client computing (such as Citrix/Terminal Services). With VDI, you are taking the processing off of the end user’s device and bringing it onto a server. The difference with VDI, unlike thin-client, the virtual desktop is dedicated to a single end user or mapped to provide the desktop OS & applications to a single client viewing device.  Many VDI packaged solutions, of course, uses VMware or Microsoft’s virtual platforms as the underlying virtualization product.

Why should an organization use VDI?

  • SecurityDesktops are more secure
  • Rollback – Can use VMware’s snapshot and revert technology on desktop machines
  • Centralized Apps – Applications upgrades are easier because systems are all in a centralized location
  • Speed Deployment – You can quickly clone existing machines and roll out new systems because machines are all in a single central repository
  • Provide a full desktop PC – You are providing full access to a virtual machine and each virtual desktop is mapped to a single user or a single client device.
  • Reliability – If you could quickly restore any PC OS to a usable state, free from viruses or corruption, how reliable could your desktop systems be?

Here are some key points about the solution for your reference:

  1. You could use older or existing PC’s but that doesn’t provide you all the benefits you could get from VDI. You could also use thin-client devices running RDP. Ideally, you might consider something like the new Wyse Thins OS-VDI, made just for thin clients that will be connected to VDI servers. More information can be found at: http://www.wyse.com/about/news/pr/2006/0802_VMwareVDI.asp and http://www.wyse.com/products/software/os
  2. With regards to remote control application, you can choose from RDP, VNC, or others
  3. For Legacy hardware you can use RDP, for example, which supports USB devices on the client and if you could put a parallel or serial device on the server, you could also access it from the client.
  4. You will have to do your own cost comparison, keeping in mind, the soft numbers related to the increased security and management functionality.  There are several case studies that outline a 5 year ROI that shows the cost comparison where you come out appropriately.