How To Make Desktop Virtualisation Work with VDI

VDI, or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, promises to reduce the effort and cost of enterprise desktop management, but be careful how you implement it

Increased business agility is another advantage of VDI. Flexibility is the name of the game for businesses that want to survive this recession. The ability to provision or relocate a desktop with a single mouse click opens new opportunities for businesses. Users can buy whatever hardware they want and still have access to the applications they need.

As the desktop environment is abstracted from the physical devices on users’ desks, management and updates become much less resource-intensive. Estimates indicate that VDI can reduce desktop TCO by anywhere from 15 percent to 35 percent. Who wouldn’t want to trim that much off the desktop support budget?

VDI: Here’s the Catch

Unfortunately, it isn’t that straightforward. Designing, purchasing, installing and maintaining a VDI solution and the infrastructure needed to run it (servers, storage, network, security) can cause an enterprise to rack up enormous capital and operating expenses.

This isn’t simply a matter of downloading a free hypervisor and building a few images. You’ll need the storage to house all those images and retrieve them quickly, so you’ll have to add to your existing Fibre Channel or iSCSI SAN (storage area network) or buy a new one. Pushing tens of thousands of 25GB images from SAN to server to thin clients essentially requires you to upgrade the data centre backbone to a 10Gbps switched environment while running 1Gbps to users’ desks. Anything less and you’ll risk performance bottlenecks choking the life out of your VDI initiative before it gets off the ground.

VDI changes the paradigm and increases management complexity for the desktop support team; besides, I have seen what happens when responsibilities overlap between desktop and server support groups, and it isn’t pretty. You’re going to have to get server, desktop, storage and network support teams on the same page in order to succeed. Make sure that management conveys the importance of working together to all of these teams.

Baseline, recently reported that 30 percent of the executives who participated in a Ziff Davis Enterprise Research study expect deployment of VDI to increase at their companies. Will this make 2010 the year of the virtual desktop? Gartner seems to think so. In August 2007 the analyst company predicted that “by the end of 2010 all new PC deployments will be virtualised.” In 2008 it predicted implementation by “fewer than 40 percent of target users by 2010.” In 2009, it predicted that the market “will accelerate through 2013 to reach 49 million units, up from more than 500,000 units in 2009.” Yet with all the interest and predictions, VDI implementation has been advancing like maple syrup on ice. Is this because of the technology, the perceptions of buyers, the general economic climate or all three?