Virtualization, at least at the server level, has been around for some time. Since then, the concept has expanded to user, application, network, security, storage, and of course desktop virtualization. VDI took the market by storm and many thought it was the direct answer to many of their desktop problems. Initially, there were some challenges – serious challenges. Data centers never really understood the requirements that initial VDI technologies really required. So, during the onset of the VDI push, there were some very flawed VDI deployments.
With that in mind – Maybe you’re on a team that has been tasked with selecting a VDI provider. Or, maybe you’re in charge of the budget and are wondering what virtual desktop infrastructure can do for your company.
Whether you understand the gist of VDI, or you’ve never heard of it before, this article will bring you up to speed on the subject — fast.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) refers to computer virtualization architecture that allows you to virtualize users’ desktops. While virtualized servers do not require such interaction, virtualized desktops need to interact directly with end users. Therefore, VDI requires a larger collection of technical tools to deliver the virtualized desktop, and to create, host, and manage virtual machines.
Server virtualization has become more mainstream, prompting businesses to study whether other related technologies could improve their efficiency, too. These companies are naturally looking into desktop virtualization since it shares many similarities with server virtualization.
Comparing Desktop Virtualization to Server Virtualization
To understand VDI, it helps to have an idea of how server virtualization — and virtualization itself — works. With server virtualization, the server’s information (its operating system, configuration files, applications, and other data stored on the drive) is converted to a file, which is called a disk image.
Virtualization software creates an environment called a virtual machine (VM) to simulate a server’s hardware and to execute the disk image. So, the VM acts just like a physical server. Since virtualization software can execute multiple VMs simultaneously, a single physical server (called the host system) can run several servers within it — each of these servers is called a guest.
Like server virtualization, VDI operates with a system of guests. But, these guests are desktop operating systems instead of servers.
The system can be set up in a number of ways — the VDI may involve a user’s laptop; a central, back-end computer may host users’ VMs, providing a mechanism for them to connect to their virtualized computers; or other arrangements.
VDIs can also take a hybrid approach; since disk images are files, a system can be created in which a centralized server hosts VMs while employees are in the office, but each user can also run the system on a laptop.
Benefits of VDI
One of the major benefits of centrally hosted VDI is hardware consolidation. If you are familiar with server virtualization, then you know the cost savings associated with such consolidation.
With VDI, you will no longer need to buy fully functional computers for each of your staff members. You can plan for overall usage on the server that hosts your employees’ VMs. You can also consolidate on overall storage and CPU power and RAM for added cost savings.
Another major benefit of VDI is the security it provides. We all know that employees sometimes use their work computers for non-work activities like web browsing, which exposes your machines to malware. With VDI, IT staff can provide a locked-down virtual environment on an unlocked computer to allow employees to have some freedom, while keeping your machines safe. The locked-down environment would hold business applications and sensitive data and be protected from the other parts of the computer.
It’s clear that the popularity around VDI is going to continue increasing. As more industries find benefits in using VDI, you’ll see more use-cases and even greater business benefits. Users will become more mobile, they’ll receive their applications regardless of the device – and all of this is powered by a virtual desktop architecture; centralized at the data center. Moving forward, look to next-generation virtualization to have even greater impacts on the business and user community.