Initially, virtual desktops were touted as the replacement for physical desktops and a simple transition to a new type of end-point architecture. Managers and admins were promised this whole new type of environment which would help them transition to a more BYOD-friendly environment and assist with the move to Windows 7 (and now Windows 8). The problem became clear when underlying infrastructure components began to suffer as more resources were, in fact, required to run a VDI platform. More network bandwidth, storage resources and computing processes required organizations to rethink exactly how they were going to deploy VDI, and make it work.
So, let’s take a new approach to the VDI conversation. Instead of bashing the technology or mentioning what it needs to work properly we can examine where exactly VDI fits, and where it has been most successful:
- Labs. Labs, kiosks and any other environment that has a lot of users accessing the same hardware is a great use-case for VDI. Once the user is done with the end-point, the OS is reset to its pristine state. This is perfect for healthcare laboratories, task workers, libraries and even classrooms. There have been several large educational VDI deployments taking place as thin/zero clients begin to replace older fat clients. Furthermore, these lab environments can be completely hosted either in a private or public cloud environment. By using non-persistent cloud-based desktops administrators can quickly provision and de-provision these labs.
- Testing and Development. What better way to test out an application, service or new product than on an efficiently provisioned VDI image. Administrators can deploy and test out new platforms within “live” environments without having to provision hardware resources. Once the testing is complete, they can simply spin down the VDI instance and rollout the new update, application or desktop environment. This can be done either internally or through a cloud provider.
- Application compatibility. Recent updates within an organization have forced some applications to adopt 64bit technologies. Well, some apps just won’t run on such a platform. So, administrators have been forced to get creative. This is where VDI can help. For those select finicky applications, VDI within a private cloud environment can be a lifesaver. Virtual desktops can run within a 32bit or 64bit instance and allow administrators to continue to support some older apps.
- Contractors and outside employees. Some organizations have numerous contractors working within an organization. A great way to control contractor access is through a private cloud VDI platform. Give a user access via controlled AD policies and credentials and allow them to connect to a virtual desktop. From there, the administrators can quickly provision and de-provision desktop resources as needed for a given contractor. This allows outside consultants to bring in their own laptops, access centralized desktops and conduct their jobs. Then, once done, simply power down or reset the VM. This creates a quick, easy to manage contractor VDI environment.
- Controlled BYOD. Application virtualization aside, delivering desktops via BYOD can be a great solution for the end-user. Whether they’re working from home, internally or even internationally, the user can be presented ass desktop with all of their settings intact. BYOD and IT consumerization have created a true demand for BYOD. This is where VDI can help. The end-point never retains the data, and the desktop as well as the applications, are always controlled at the data center level.
- Heavy workload delivery. That’s right – you read that correctly. New technologies, like those from nVidia GRID, are allowing for powerful resource sharing while still using a single GPU. Solutions like GRID basically accelerate virtual desktops and applications, allowing the enterprise IT to deliver true graphics from the datacenter to any user on the network. Unlike in the past, you can now place more heavy resource users on a multi-tenant blade and GPU architecture. This opens up new possibilities for those few users that always needed a very expensive end-point.
VDI can be very successful if deployed in the right type of environment. One of the first steps in looking at a VDI solution is to understand how this type of platform will work within your organization. Is there a use-case? Is there an underlying infrastructure that will be able to support a VDI platform? By seeing the direct fit for VDI within an organization, the entire solution can actually have some great benefits.