Virtual Desktop Infrastructure solutions are bogus, here's why

One of the current challenges for a business IT team is supporting a variety of desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile end user devices for employees. This task can be a considerable overhead in terms of time, resource and cost. Physical desktops are not only expensive, insecure, and maintenance heavy, they are also not necessarily a good fit for an increasingly mobile and demanding workforce. The groundswell of Windows 7 migration plans, an expanding virtual workforce, the growing popularity of mobile devices, and tighter IT budgets each point to the need to re-evaluate desktop strategies.

While virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) seems like a promising alternative to managing physical desktops & mobiles, in reality, it’s too costly and complex for most companies to implement successfully. Cloud services, however, are helping to mitigate many of the challenges of traditional VDI implementations. Cloud based virtual desktops deliver benefits around centralised management and simplified deployment without the high costs, limitations, or difficulties of VDI.

Let's (not) get physical, physical

Let us try to understand why businesses are currently investigating options beyond physical desktops and how VDI and Cloud based Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) are evolving as viable alternatives and understand their respective advantages and limitations. While desktop computing has historically been an essential mechanism for delivering business applications and services to end users, IT managers are finding that an ever increasing amount of their time and IT budget is focused on managing and securing these physical PCs, driving the need for a less complex and more cost effective solution.

Some of the obvious challenges around physical desktops (or laptops) are: hardware limitations leading to an inability to absorb the requirements of newer versions of operating systems, together with an increasing demand of end users to be able to access information without delay from any place, at any time. Physical desktops consume 10 percent of IT budgets and yet fail to provide any significant competitive advantages over cloud based desktops.

So it is clear that there is a dire need for organisations to move away from physical desktops to a solution that is scalable, cost effective and allows access to information from any place, at any time and from a range of end user devices. Once a company has decided to move forward with desktop virtualisation, the next step is to determine which type of desktop virtualisation will best meet the needs of both the end user and the IT team. The two alternatives to the provision of physical desktops that have evolved over the past few years are VDI and Cloud based Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS).

Swap your head in the clouds, for a desktop in the cloud

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is primarily an individual virtual machine that is running a Desktop Operating System and as the data is normally located locally, on premise, security is totally under the control of the company. This has both advantages and disadvantages in that the infrastructure for the VDI implementation needs to be hosted locally. For companies that don’t have the power, space, CAPEX or required IT knowledge, this can be a disadvantage, whilst for companies that do have these facilities and skills in-house, it can be relatively easy and cost effective to use existing internal resources.

An added requirement for hosting VDI internally would be to ensure that the relevant security and controls were in place to keep company data safe. Again, if this is an internal VDI implementation, it would be incumbent on the business to ensure that this was in place and maintained by their in-house IT team. This contrasts to the implementation model of DaaS, where the managed service provider would be maintaining all of the above at their data centre, leveraging their own skills and resources.

DaaS or Virtual Desktops in the Cloud are not markedly different from VDI, so let’s examine the differences and similarities of DaaS compared to VDI. When implementing a DaaS solution the virtual desktops are outsourced to a cloud service provider, so the internal IT team is relieved of the task of managing the desktop software and hardware and like any other cloud offering, this approach offers cost savings, flexibility and scalability.

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IT infrastructure showdown: VDI vs. DaaS

In many ways the advantages and disadvantages of private and public cloud mirror the advantages and disadvantages of VDI versus DaaS. For exactly the same reasons that public cloud is gaining more success over private cloud, DaaS is gaining more success over VDI for desktop management.

Cloud computing has become a hot topic in today's world, largely due to the flexibility and cost savings it can deliver. In the same manner as with virtualisation, cloud computing implementations started with server infrastructure and has moved to the desktop; the cloud is now ripe for desktop infrastructure.

By moving desktops to the cloud rather than an internally deployed and managed VDI solution in a data centre, businesses can realise all of the promised benefits of virtual desktops—through centralised management, improved data security, and simplified deployment— without VDI’s costs, challenges, limitations or difficulties.

by Vivek Vahie, the senior director of service delivery at NaviSite