The business landscape is changing exponentially, especially with the Covid-19 hitting and work from home becoming the new normal. In such a scenario, imagine what would have been the impact on the economy if remote work wasn’t possible at all. Well, thankfully, solutions such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) have made remote work possible and enabled you and your employees to access desktops over a network. Not just remote work, it has also simplified desktop management and freed the IT teams from the hassle of installing, managing, and upgrading the local desktops. But before getting into how VDI works or benefits your organization, let’s understand what exactly this technology is.
What is VDI?
VDI refers to a desktop virtualization ecosystem wherein virtual desktops are run and managed on virtual machines (VMs) deployed on a host data center. The data center can be deployed on-premise or on the cloud. It allows you to launch and access a desktop image over a network as if you are running it locally. Thus, you can deploy your legacy systems and allow your employees to give remote access to the desktop environment from anywhere and at any time through end-point client devices, such as PCs, mobile, or thin clients.
Unlike physical desktops, implementing virtual desktop infrastructure means that an employee does not necessarily have to be in the office to access business applications. Hence, VDI comes in handy in this boundary-less world where organizations are embracing work from home culture.
What are the Components of a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?
There are two significant components essential for deploying VDI and leveraging virtual desktop environments. However, some other features and technologies also play a vital role in the seamless functioning of VDI.
A hypervisor is a component that differentiates the operating system (OS) from the hardware. It installs the local desktop operating systems as VMs on the host server and manages them. The hypervisor creates standardized desktop images on multiple VMs, wherein each one of them can have a unique OS, configurations, applications, and data.
As the name implies, the connection broker acts as the bridge that connects the end-users to the virtual desktop image. It is also responsible for authenticating users and keeping track of the number of active and inactive desktop services.
Operating System (OS) Instances
These are the instances of running OS on end-user devices. Since VMs will have virtualized the OS and resources, you can run it on any client device, even if it does not meet the requirements for OS.
Application virtualization is the technology that creates the app images and replicates them on the desktop images, which are further run on the client devices.
These are the core components of a virtual desktop infrastructure that comes together to complete the VDI environment and run virtual desktop images on physical end-devices.
How does VDI work?
The virtual desktop infrastructure runs in the following manner:
- The client will begin by using the VDI software to request access to a virtual desktop image.
- Upon the request, the connection broker will authenticate the user.
- After successful authentication, the client will be sent to the resource pool through the connection broker network.
- The hypervisor will then manage and maintain the VMs where the desktop image is hosted.
- A system administrator can also use VDI desktop management software to make desktop pools comprising multiple desktops with similar configurations and OS. It will ease out the desktop and project management.
- After completing the usage, the client can close the connection.
- When a desktop becomes inactive, the admin can turn it off and save the resources for optimal usage.
Thus VDI technology ensures seamless and secures virtual desktop connections and data recovery options, becoming adept at providing the best user experience and data prevention when organizations go remote.
What is the Difference between VDI and Desktop Virtualization?
There’s considerable confusion between the technologies: virtual desktop infrastructure and desktop virtualization. They are also at times used interchangeably, but there’s a vast difference in how these technologies operate.
A VDI, as you would know now, is a concept of hosting numerous desktop images on a server and accessing them from anywhere. It is a type of desktop virtualization, but it basically takes an OS and shifts it to a virtual machine. On the other hand, desktop virtualization runs a virtual machine on a single physical host, usually from the office. It can be a virtual desktop of any OS, including Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Dos, etc. To put it simply, desktop virtualization runs a virtual machine on a desktop while VDI is running and managing a desktop image on virtual machines.
Persistent v/s Non-Persistent VDI Deployments
With virtual desktop infrastructure, you get two desktop deployment options: persistent and non-persistent. Which type of deployment to use is one of the biggest questions facing IT administrators. Well, the answer lies within your requirements. Both persistent and non-persistent VDI deployment have their pros and cons. Hence, it finally comes to your requirements to select the best fit for you. To evaluate the best one according to your needs, it is essential to learn about both of the VDI deployment methodologies.
What is a Persistent Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?
Persistent VDI is based on a one-to-one service ratio, meaning each user gets his desktop image. Even the data in a persistent VDI is stored, saved, and appears to the user during each login.
Advantages of Persistent VDI
- Personalization: Users get the complete local feel with this deployment as all the changes they made are saved and later shown each time they log in to access the virtual desktop.
- Faster deployment: It’s quicker and easier to deploy persistent desktops as the admin does not have to refactor any setup while shifting to VDI.
Disadvantages of Persistent VDI
- Resource requirements: Persistent VDI requires a massive storage space as it has to store data of individual desktop images and sessions.
- Image management: Since there is a different desktop image for each user, managing all the images becomes challenging for the administrators. On top of it, the images also start getting deteriorated similarly to physical desktops.
What is a Non-Persistent Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?
Non-persistent VDI, as you would have guessed by now, is the opposite of persistent deployment. They follow a many-to-one approach, wherein multiple users share a single desktop image. In non-persistent VDI, there is a master desktop, and each individual desktop image is mirrored from this master desktop. However, like persistent VDIs, non-persistent VDIs cannot save customer data to provide them with what they left in the previous session.
Advantages of Non-Persistent VDI
- Image management: Every user does not get a personal desktop image with a non-persistent VDI. Hence, the number of images reduces, making the management easier for admins.
- Low storage requirements: Since all the desktop images are mirrored from a master desktop, the storage requirements reduce significantly. On top of it, the user gets a new desktop image for each session as no data is saved, thereby further reducing storage needs.
- Enhanced security: The non-persistent VDIs have standard configuration and application settings, which do not allow users to make significant changes. Hence, non-persistent VDIs are more secure than persistent VDIs.
Disadvantages of Non-Persistent VDI
- Less flexibility: Non-persistent VDIs do not allow to publish applications and make deployments on the go.
- Limited to no personalization: Since the desktop images are shared, and the user gets a fresh image for every new session, the scope of personalization gets limited.
The story’s crux is that you can choose persistent VDI deployment if you have enough resources and money to manage the costs and desktop images. On the other hand, if you want to go economical, non-persistent VDI is the right fit for your organization.
What are the Benefits of VDI?
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure has continuously gained a lot of traction in the IT market, ever since it came into practice. According to a report, the VDI market is expected to reach a whopping $13.45 billion by 2022 ¹. One of the most significant reasons behind the success of VDI is its numerous benefits and reliability that it brings to the table. Some of the key advantages of VDI are:
Driving Cost Savings
One of the sales-driving benefits of VDI is cost-efficiency. Statistics show that you can save around 70% administration and 97% energy bill costs ² using VDI. VDI can help you save costs in the following ways:
- No need to buy costly hardware devices to access desktops
- Use thin clients by extending their lifespan as the storage and other hardware requirements are used from the data centers.
- Eliminates the need for IT staff to be physically present at each branch office for resolutions
- Saves resources, energy, and time, thereby helping you with budget and cloud costs optimization
Providing Remote Access
VDI allows you and the end-users to access desktop images and business applications from anywhere and anytime. With the BYOD workforce and work from home becoming commonplace, accessibility becomes a vital functionality. This remote access functionality also helps to boost productivity as the employees can access applications quickly and without the need to go to the office physically.
VDI offers centralization, which makes managing and deploying end-point devices hassle-free. For instance, whenever an update for a business application arrives, there is no need to update it on all devices. Instead, all you need to do is update the application on the VMs, and the desktop image will reflect the same in all the upcoming sessions.
VDIs centralization feature also helps enhance host-based data security. For instance, IT admins can check for viruses and run threat detection strategies centrally on all the desktop images. Also, the VMs provide additional security features that would not have been accessible and used otherwise on the physical devices.
Enhancing Disaster Recovery and Data Backup
With VDI, you get the utmost disaster recovery and instant data backup. That’s because all the data lives on the data center and not the end devices. Let’s say that even if the end device is crashed or stolen, you can quickly recover the lost data from the data center.
A Glimpse into VDI use cases
The benefits of virtual desktop infrastructure make it a right fit for several use cases. You can run and access desktop images from virtual machines in the following use cases.
While VDI can be used across various industries and situations, call centers and similar businesses become a natural fit for leveraging VDI technology. Almost all the employees in the call centers use the same tools like CRM thereby delivering a consistent desktop environment for remote users. Also, call center data is subject to constant changes. VDI centralizes all the tools and data for usage, thereby enhancing the system and cost-efficiency.
The healthcare industry has been using EHR for a long time to provide the best medical services to their patients. However, security has always remained a significant concern for the industry. The healthcare industry has witnessed most cyberthreats and requires the best cybersecurity assessment services like malware detection scanning. That’s where VDI fits into the picture with its enhanced security.
With centralized data, doctors and medical staff can access EHR remotely and from any device, which will enhance mobility.
With VDI, the IT team can provide each student with a virtual desktop with customized restrictions. For instance, when a primary school student uses the desktop image, he can be given a virtual desktop with major limitations. On the other hand, when a high school student uses the desktop image, he can be given a desktop with fewer restrictions.
Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) Environment
Any organization with a BYOD culture can leverage the benefits of VDI. While the BYOD culture helps save hardware costs and provides a personalized feel to the employees, it can be a headache for the IT teams. With VDI, administrators will be free from the hectic process of installing relevant applications to and securing these devices.
Defining the Limitations of VDI
VDI offers a vast array of benefits to organizations. However, there are not all pluses. Besides the benefits, VDI also has some limitations that need to be taken care of.
- Endpoint performance: While on-premise desktops will allow using some of the applications offline, that’s not the case with VDI. With virtual desktop infrastructure, all the data and applications are stored in data centers. Hence, to ensure a seamless user environment, the end-user has to be connected to the internet through their endpoint device. Low internet connectivity can lead to poor endpoint performance and user experience.
- Initial costs: Cost savings is one of the significant benefits of VDI but in the long-term. The initial costs of deploying VMs and desktop images can be much higher when compared to on-premise physical devices.
- Scalability: VDI solutions will scale up only if you scale the network and server infrastructure. Since you cannot rely much on the end-point devices considering they will be thin clients and won’t have the required configurations, you will have to compensate with bandwidth, RAM, and storage.
Steps for a successful VDI implementation
There’s no point in jumping on the bandwagon of VDI just because everyone is doing so or everyone is benefiting from it. Taking the wrong steps for faster deployment may fail your VDI implementation. But that does not mean it has to be a headache. All you need to do is follow the below steps to ensure a successful implementation for your organization.
Develop a business case
The first step to virtual desktop infrastructure implementation is building the right business case. Begin with determining whether you need VDI or just embracing it by hearing the other’s benefits. If you do need it, find out what your requirements are and where you can fit VDI.
Select the type
As mentioned above, there are two types of VDI. Find out which type will be adept at addressing your business requirements. You know the pros and cons of both types. Establish your’s and your users’ needs, and based on that, choose from persistent or non-persistent VDI.
Build the plan
The next thing is to create the roadmap to your success. Planning is the key to the correct implementation. Understand your current systems and environments first. After assessing the existing systems, build a strategy that will help shift to VDI seamlessly. Also, consider the resources you already have and how much you might require for crafting the right plan.
Begin with a test
Start by deploying on a single VM and test the results. This will help you identify any potential problems that a user might face while using your VDI implementation. The best way to go with it is by assembling many test users and creating some benchmark metrics that will define the success or failure of your test.
Make the changes
Based on your findings from the test, make any required changes to the strategy and resources. Once you are done with the changes, test the desktop image again. Continue with this process until you feel that your VDI is ready to go.
Deploy the VDI
The final thing is to deploy the full-fledged VDI implementation strategy and leverage the virtual desktop infrastructure’s benefits.
Who are the Popular VDI Vendors?
You will find numerous vendors providing virtual desktop services. However, the major players in the VDI market are Citrix, Microsoft, Amazon, and VMware. Among them, Citrix is the most renowned VDI provider, with Citrix virtual apps and desktops tools holding the largest share in the market. After Citrix is VMware, followed by Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop solutions and Amazon Workspaces offering.
VMware coined the term VDI back in 2006. It was the first provider of VDI and later started providing virtualized apps. On the other hand, both Citrix and Microsoft started by providing virtualized apps and later became virtual desktop infrastructure vendors. All these VDI vendors are highly reliable and offer top-notch VDI services. You can also find several other vendors providing services at a lower cost.
Final Verdict on VDI
As you can see from the post, virtual desktop infrastructure offers a lot of benefits to organizations. But to tap the true potential of the technology, you need relevant profound knowledge. For instance, since you are deploying the desktop images in on-premise or cloud-based VMs and data centers, your IT team needs to understand all the concepts and need to dedicate time to manage them efficiently. If you don’t have the expertise and knowledge, and want your workforce to focus on core business operations, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) like Cloud4C can help. We are a leading MSP who can help you ensure your VDI implementation is successful. Our experts have a profound knowledge of on-premise and cloud-based data centers and can help you with all your virtual desktop infrastructure needs.