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Virtual desktop infrastructure offers risks and rewards

Ed Tittel and Kim Lindros | Dec. 17, 2013
After years of false starts, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) products are here. They work, and if implemented correctly they can deliver substantial cost savings to enterprise IT shops. What are the risks and rewards involved in embarking on a VDI implementation for your organisation?

That said, data deduplication can go a long way toward reducing storage requirements, usually by 70 percent or more. It also makes the use of solid state drives (SSDs) more viable for VDI images. While SSDs tend to have lower storage capacities than traditional disks, they also use fewer resources, which can lower the power and cooling requirements in a datacenter.

VDI Implementation Needs Planning, Testing
Before diving into a full-scale VDI implementation, look at your organization's departments or business units and pick the one that's best-suited to VDI. Remember, VDI is not a good fit for every user or business function; employees who need a lot of processing power or who demand local storage won't benefit from VDI.

Begin with a pilot project and monitor the end-user experience. User satisfaction will be an important factor in the success of your project. If your solution doesn't meet users' performance expectations, it risks being shelved or abandoned.

VMware and Citrix are the VDI market leaders, but be sure to research other vendors for features that might work better in your environment. As you evaluate VDI options and narrow your choices, look for scalability and flexibility in case you decide to expand the implementation in the future.

It's fairly simple to scale up from 50 users to 100 users, but things can get complicated after that. If your pilot is successful and you want to expand, but your solution doesn't scale well, you might have to start over with a different architecture or solution - and, essentially, another pilot project.

VDI is acceptable only if provides a functional or financial benefit to your organization, where cost is usually the greatest factor. Consider both the initial and long-term costs, including licensing, storage and network infrastructure elements. This guide to calculating ROI from VDI is a good place to start. If you've already narrowed your choices down to a few preferred vendors, use their planning tools as well.

To reduce IT costs even further, employ VDI automation tools that streamline deployment, distribution and updates. If you run Hyper-V, for example, Microsoft provides a library of scripts with Windows Server 2012 R2, as well as Hyper-V Cmdlets for Windows PowerShell online. is also a useful information source on automation tools. Check out the HP Sizing Tool, tools for Microsoft App-V and VMWare Workstation and more.

Alternatives: Decoupling Applications and Desktop-as-a-Service
Mobile users with ultra-thin laptops or tablets want to use those devices with all the perky features that come with them — so much so that they're willing to bring their own devices to work. VDI can pose a challenge in forcing those users to access a virtual Windows desktop remotely.


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