The growing importance of VDI and why you should care about it

If Virtual Desktop Integration (VDI) was a race horse, it would be one to back. Gartner predicts that by 2012, 60 per cent of the enterprise PC sector will be utilising it. So what is it, and why has it become so popular?

VDI is the practice of hosting a desktop operating system within a virtual machine running on a centralised server. Network administrators no longer have to deal with each end-user computer on an individual basis, but can instead control them en-masse via the central server. This greatly limits the risks associated with the end-user environment, which is where many IT issues typically originate.

VDI can save IT departments enormous amounts of time and money. In the past, software upgrades and application installations would have been arduous, with each user’s machine having to be upgraded individually. VDI allows for mass roll-outs and software upgrades, removing the need to continually upgrade each CPU with the latest version of Windows or other ‘proprietary’ application. The issue of software compatibility (with single-user software, for example) is also negated.

A major advantage of VDI is the ability to log-in to the desktop remotely, on any computer. Employees can access corporate documents and email from their own personal device, anywhere. And because all sensitive data is stored on the corporate data centre, (and not on the user’s PC), the security risks associated with theft or loss are reduced.

The evidence suggests that businesses will increasingly turn to VDI over the next few years. But what impact does this have on the wider IT environment?

Networks are a key point to consider. VDI places significant strain upon the WAN’s bandwidth and resources, due to the amount of data being transferred between the server and the desktop operating system throughout the working day. If the network is unable to cope with the pressure and provide adequate availability to applications, they are liable to perform poorly, or fail completely. The functioning of VDI can also be directly adversely affected due to limited bandwidth, resulting in users experiencing problems like delayed mouse movements and keystrokes. When it comes to productivity, users demand a seamless desktop experience.

So how can these issues be prevented? The solution lies in being able to manage the flow of traffic over the network, and to enable this, businesses need to have a transparent overview of exactly which applications are running over it, and how much resource they each consume. From here, bandwidth can be prioritised to serve the more business critical applications, significantly minimising the chances of them crashing. Performance is aligned to the needs of the business user.

VDI has numerous benefits for businesses that choose to utilise it. But in order to maximise its efficiency, companies need the right tools. It’s of primary importance that the flow of virtualised traffic can be viewed in a transparent way, and that the business-critical, virtualised applications are therefore also highly visible. With multiple apps sharing the virtualised environment, there needs to be a way of managing the competition between them, and prioritising the ones which are considered more important.

Implementing a virtualised environment without consideration for its impact on the network is the equivalent of galloping a horse bareback; an uncomfortable experience, with a very real likelihood of there being a fall.

Béatrice Piquer-Durand is VP Marketing at Ipanema Technologies. She has over 18 years experience in the IT industry focused on the development of Marketing strategies for start-up. Before joining Ipanema Technologies in 2001 to secure the sales success of the company and to create the worldwide marketing team, she worked as marketing director for several companies including Thomson Multimedia (Technicolor), Catalliances (Prodware) and Interface Data. Béatrice has extensive business and management experience in the IT and Telecom sector.