Introduction

The technology business likes abbreviations and we have a lot of people asking what Virtual Desktop Infrastructure also known as VDI is. In this white paper we are going to explain what VDI. We are also going to discuss some of the products that make up VDI.

VDI – What is it?

VDI or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure refers to the process of running a user desktop inside a virtual machine that lives on a server in the datacenter. It’s a powerful form of desktop virtualization because it enables fully personalized desktops for each user with all the security and simplicity of centralized management.

VDI is the ability to run a computer operating system, Windows XP or Windows 7 remotely. This desktop can be offered by your employer or it can come from a provider that hosts desktops.

This desktop is loaded on a central computer that does a majority of the processing and graphics display, what it is giving back to you is a screen shot. It is also taking your input and sending it back to the virtual desktop. If you remember the Mainframe days, it is very similar. The difference is you have a graphic display instead of a green screen display.

The current operating systems that support VDI are Windows 7 and Windows XP.

VDI – What Are the Advantages

BYOD is a driving force for VDI Adoption

VDI has some good advantages. The first and foremost is security. Instead of having to secure desktop and laptops that are not in your control, you have a central point you can secure. You do not have to worry about a laptop being stolen or someone copying data over an insecure network. With VDI all of the data access is in the central datacenter. You can even restrict how the data is transferred out of the VDI. You can disallow USB access and even the ability to upload files to common file sharing websites.

You can also provide much stricter locked down desktop. You do not need to worry about someone in the field needing to install software or access the operating system in an emergency. With VDI, if a problem exists, you can assign a different virtual image.

Another advantage is support becomes centralized. You do not need to worry about deploying a fleet of hardware technicians to fix machines; you can provide someone with a low maintenance terminal or allow them access from just about any device.

Another advantage is to allow just about any device to be part of the network. A majority of the VDI vendors offer support for IPAD’s, IPHONE’s, Droids and numerous additional devices. This gives you the ability to deliver the same experience without the need to have to build and deploy new applications.

  • Provides Better Security
  • Centralized updates
  • Application access from many platforms
  • Provide Access for teleworks and Contractors
  • Secured in a Datacenter
  • Good for Disaster Recovery

VDI – What Are the Disadvantages

 The biggest disadvantage to VDI can be cost. It is not cheap to configure VDI correctly. You will need to invest in network infrastructure, storage and some high end servers to host the VDI desktops. You will also need to ensure you have redundancy because if the environment goes offline, your entire user population will not work. A VDI investment will typically cost between $50,000 – $200,000 if you do it yourself.

If you are purchasing a monthly service from a company that will host your Virtual Desktop environment, the cost is much cheaper.

You also have to consider redundant connections to your datacenter. If your data lines are down, no one will be able to access their desktops and work.

  • High Upfront Costs
  • Will be at least 30- 60 day Project. Enlist outside help
  • Network Infrastructure needs to be ready. Have Enterprise Class Switches
  • Need to have lots of memory and Disk in your Virtual Machine Hosts.
  • Does not work well with graphic intensive environments

VDI – Who is Providing the Technology

There are a number of providers in this space and many more making their way in. Below is an example of some of the prime current providers in the space:

Citrix

They have 2 products, VDI in a box and XENDesktop.

XENDesktop is the enterprise product for people with 50 or more desktops. It is based on the Citrix XENAPPP technology.  XENDESKTOP requires some very high level knowledge of Citrix and at least 30-60 days to design and deploy. Citrix developed a protocol called ICA that they have been using for a very long time. The have incorporated ICA into XENDESKTOP. ICA uses very little bandwidth and is a very efficient protocol.

VDI in a box is a product they purchased from Kaviza. VDI in a wizard driven solution for small business and IT departments. VDI in a box makes it very easy for a small business to deploy VDI.

XenDesktop and VDI In  A Box – www.citrix.com 

VMWARE

VMWARE is the pioneer in the virtual computing environment for Windows. They have a product called VMWARE VIEW. VMWARE View  s an additional product to their VWMWARE SPHERE product line.  VWMARE allows access from either RDP or a protocol called PC over IP. PC over IP. PC over IP is VMWARE’S answer to the ICA protocol.

 VMWARE VIEW – www.vmware.com 

MOKIAFIVE

These guys are newcomers to the market, but have a very interesting product. They offer a virtual desktop that can run even if you are not connected to the Network or Internet. This is one of the biggest concerns for people who are running VDI desktops. Their product installed on top of a Windows server and is very easy to deploy and maintain.

Low cost way to get started and the ability to run without an Internet Connection – www.mokafive.com 

OS33

This is product many service providers and some enterprises are using. They have a different approach. Instead of assigning you a Virtual desktop, they use a WEBTOP. A WebTop is a collection of applications and also links. The difference with OS33 is you are not getting an actual desktop as much as you are getting a web portal that you can launch all of your applications.

Platform called a WEBTOP – http://www.os33.com 

VDI – Use Cases

  • Great for banking Teller Lines
  • Great for Teleworkers
  • Great for Attorney’s
  • Great for Health Care
  • Great for Bring Your Own Device

I have seen VDI work very well in industries such as legal, banking and companies with numerous teleworks.  In banking VDI works great for teller lines. It provides for a secure environment for the bank teller. It does not have USB ports or anything that someone can download information to. If someone steels the device, they are just getting a monitor and device with no critical information on it. It also saves the cost of deploying and securing those machines.

This also works well for law firms. If you are an attorney, you can work on a document at work. Leave the document up and running and connect to your desktop from home and work on the same document. It makes the attorney highly productive and also gives him the ability to work on his documents from anywhere anytime he wants.

A final scenario where VDI works well is with remote users or users who travel. With VDI, you can easy provide access to a desktop for a remote user from anywhere. They typically just need to login to a portal and they gain access to their desktop and applications. It is also easy to remove access once they leave or no longer need access, you just disable their user account. You do not have to worry about documents or data on a machine you gave them or worry about getting the machine back.

Final Thoughts

VDI is an interesting and very fast changing technology. With the explosion of mobile devices and various cheap platforms, VDI gives you the advantage of offering a solution for many devices quickly without the need to deploy apps or new software. You can also easily enable Apple devices to be part of your enterprise network.

A link has been provided to take a self-assessment. This self-assessment will help determine if VDI is a fit for you and also to see if you have the pieces and parts in place to be VDI ready.

Take the survey at www.tbjconsulting.com/vdi