Everything you think you know about VDI is wrong. Let’s set the record straight.

 In Cloud, Virtualization

A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is expensive, right? And, of course, it’s way too complex for most organizations. And a VDI user experience surely folds under the weight of power users running intense processes.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

VDI has come a long way in the past decade – it supports the most extreme demands of power users and can drive down an organization’s operating costs. But VDI misperceptions still linger, to the detriment of many organizations.

Part of the issue is the lack of exposure to new VDI solutions, which have become much more refined in the last 10 years. It’s 2016, and VDI is a realistic option for organizations of all sizes, including school districts and governments. So let’s pull back the curtain on those misperceptions, and see why VDI in 2016 is different than what you remember from 2006.

Dell VDI

Misperception #1: VDI is just too expensive.

A decade ago, adopting a VDI environment was cost prohibitive for most, especially for small organizations with fewer than 500 users. It didn’t make financial sense to purchase more server hardware and storage, and to replace every single device with a smaller endpoint machine; organizations simply kept laptops and standardized PCs, and “business as usual” marched on.

Now, advancements in virtualization can drive down costs. Because VDI is a more complete solution – edge devices are more powerful; servers and storage are more cost-effective, especially with hyper-converged infrastructure appliances (HCIAs); and acceptance of virtualization has grown – it’s becoming more popular for many organizations, including government entities and school districts.

Sure, VDI environments come with an incremental upfront cost. But unlike deploying 1,000 new PCs and managing that hardware, devices in a VDI sit on the edge of the network and require fewer resources to manage (any software updates, for example, are more streamlined). Because there are often no moving parts and nothing is stored on these endpoint devices, they typically perform longer than their PC counterparts. Roughly twice as long in fact.

From a cost cutting perspective, VDI environments can run on less energy than the traditional hardware environment. Thin client devices can run on as little as 5 watts of power (a normal desktop consumes about 100-200 watts), so organizations employing VDI tend to consume less power overall, which further reduces costs.

Though some smaller shops may still see initial upfront cost as a deterrent, today’s VDI environments are a realistic fiscal option for many organizations.

Misperception #2: VDI is just too complex.

Remember, desktop virtualization wasn’t as common a decade ago as it is today. Then, setting up a VDI environment and possibly replacing every piece of hardware was seen as too tall a task to manage. There was a fear that users might shy away from working on anything but their actual laptop or device.

Now, many organizations have a virtualization component in their IT toolbox, but have forgotten about VDI. Adopting a VDI infrastructure has become less complex in the last decade: Managing and configuring VDI appliances is now akin to setting up a desktop computer from out of the box. And standing up the VDI back-end infrastructure can now be as simple as plugging in an appliance and stepping through a PC-like installation and deployment wizard in minutes.

If we break it down to its simplest parts, a VDI environment’s components can now be housed within a single appliance box. Managing the required pieces of hardware and software becomes easier when it’s all in one place. Because these latest VDI appliances tend to be plug and play using an incremental “building block” design, VDI environments are relatively easy to scale up as well, with predictable performance gains and cost.

Security and management? Power users? Training? Problems solved.

Data security is critical for any organization, whether it uses desktops, mobile devices, or a virtualized environment. One advantage we’ve seen with VDI environments is improved security and content protection; because content is moved from desktops and laptops to the secure data center, it’s considerably easier to secure and protect that data. Of course, managing content is still needed, but it’s less of a challenge to accomplish that on a central VDI on a dozen or so servers than on a few hundred or thousands of devices.

Software updates and overall management becomes easier, too. Let’s imagine operating a municipal government. Scattered around town are various government buildings (town hall, the library, the police station, firehouses, and public works) that are connected to the same network. VDI allows you to push software updates and other management needs to those places without physically traveling from place to place to perform those updates. In fact, it can be as easy as a simple file drag-and-drop from one central management location.

Let’s talk about thin client devices. VDIs don’t require typical hardware, but stripped down versions that support all types of users. Even your power users – those who need to do more than just email and word processing – can use thin clients at the edge of the VDI network for intensive computer tasks, like 3D mapping. The powerful back end of modern VDIs will support those highly complex applications, and the latest generation of thin-client endpoints can offer plenty of local assist to ensure outstanding graphics performance for the most demanding engineers and designers.

One thing we’re often asked about is training, because VDI environments take a bit of time to get used to. Initially, organizations that adopt VDI want to begin rolling it out with a small segment of users. Task-based workers, for example, are often a good place to start because they work with just a few applications on a very repetitive basis, a perfect use case to ensure a VDI is set up correctly and will work for your organization. In fact, many organizations do a proof of concept (POC) with these users. Once that test is complete, VDI can be expanded and rolled out to the entire organization. And these POCs can now be set up quickly and easily using a pre-packaged VDI appliance.

The record is clear – this isn’t the VDI you remember

Today, VDI environments offer better security and management than their predecessors, and thin client devices that live on the network are more powerful than ever before. Plus, VDIs are much less complex and easier to install and manage than they once were, while saving money in the long run after an initial investment.

What questions do you have about VDI? Leave us a comment below.

Jeff Thibeault DellAbout the author

Jeff Thibeault serves as Senior Manager, Cloud Client Computing Channels. In his role he is responsible for Dell Wyse’s National Solution Partners and US Distributors.  During his 13 year tenure Jeff has been solely focused on thin clients and the VDI space working in a variety of sales roles, most recently as Director of Inside Sales prior to moving into his current position.

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  • Marshall Alan Hill

    As a manager that just recently completed a conversion to VDI, I can speak to the fact that there really isn’t anything in the technology that should stop an organization from doing this. You had be very aware of who you are contracting with and what kind of support you will receive from that company after conversion. If you don’t have good support, the solution just doesn’t work. Period. And go beyond the 3 or 4 references the company will provide. Everyone of our references had nothing but good things to say about our potential vendor. It wasn’t until we converted that we found out they were not quite ready for growth. Of course if you have an I.T. staff and go with Azure or AWS and keep control of your workstation environment all of that goes out the window. For us the complete out-sourcing was strategic because of the regulatory requirements we deal with and this solved it. Its a buyer beware proposition.

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