IT admins don’t have it easy. Infrastructure needs seem to grow more complex and costly every year as the requirements for greater speed, storage, and access surge. It’s no surprise that admins are always on the lookout for tools that help reduce that complexity by simplifying management and security, or by reducing costs.
Virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, is one way IT departments can simplify. With VDI, users’ apps and desktop operating systems can be hosted on a server inside the data center. Instead of running fully powered laptops with complete OS and app installations, users only need client devices that can access and display their virtual desktops across the network from a remote server.
With VDI, IT admins can centrally manage desktops and maintain greater control over apps, updates, and security. VDI also lets IT admins consolidate desktops while providing users with the ability to access their virtual desktops from anywhere on any device. At the same time, each user still has the ability to run a personalized desktop that looks identical to running one locally on a laptop.
The Virtual Reality: ROI Limited VDI Deployments … Until Now
With so many benefits, why haven’t most organizations jumped on the VDI bandwagon? For several years, businesses have been reluctant to deploy VDI because it hasn’t always performed well—especially for graphics-intensive apps. Workers frequently complained about usability issues, especially over slower networks, which hindered performance.
Admins were also reluctant to invest in wide-scale VDI deployments because of the high up-front and continuing costs from:
- Infrastructure and software licensing
- Lost user productivity due to performance issues
For years, these impediments have relegated VDI to the ranks of transitional technologies that offered lots of promises but couldn’t quite deliver on them. So what changed?
Is the Time Finally Right for VDI?
In the last few years, we’ve seen major advances in the technologies that VDI relies on. Networks now routinely support higher bandwidths and are much more reliable and prevalent. Newer processors from companies like Intel also include optimizations to improve the speed and performance of virtualized environments.
In addition, faster storage options, with a more feasible ROI, are available to support large volumes of data, operating systems, and apps for VDI user environments in the data center. For example, NVMe solid-state drives (SSDs) can provide much faster read/write times than hard-disk drives (HDDs); they take up less space in the data center, they are much more robust, and they require far less cooling. Even the performance issues have been addressed thanks to newer graphics processing units (GPUs) that can handle heavier lifting for graphics-intensive operations, like computer-aided design (CAD), animation, and video streaming.
Converged Infrastructure Seals the Deal
For many IT admins, the biggest incentive to finally roll out a VDI solution might be from new converged-infrastructure options. These pre-built appliance packages provide server-side infrastructure and software in one easy-to-deploy bundle, which can reduce both CapEx (by optimizing and consolidating hardware) and OpEx (by simplifying management and deployment).
Several vendors, such as Citrix and Nutanix, offer consolidated solutions or converged-infrastructure appliances for VDI. At Prowess, we recently had the opportunity to work with the Dell EMC VxRail virtual-desktop appliance, which includes VMware hypervisors and management software, Dell PowerEdge servers powered by the Intel Xeon processor family, and built-in security software. VxRail appliances are designed to work efficiently with Dell Wyse thin-client software—provided as part of the VxRail solution—running on nearly any user device. Because Dell provides all the hardware, software, administrative tools, services, and support under one umbrella, we found that the VxRail appliance could be an attractive end-to-end solution for businesses that are looking for a quick, reliable way to roll out VDI.
Naturally, VDI still isn’t the perfect solution for every business. For example, when users have limited or unreliable network access, they need local desktops to remain productive. But for many organizations, VDI is now an attractive option for bringing greater organization, control, and security to user desktop management.