Imagine: a pool of servers runs in your data center, on which desktops are hosted. Users can access these desktops and all processing is done on the host server. It is a technology that has been around for more than 2 decades and has only gotten better in that time. A VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) is a collection of virtual computers running in a data center. It is one of the popular workplace solutions on the market.
It works like this: An employee has a computer, it doesn’t have to be very luxurious: a keyboard, a mouse and a screen and minimal need for RAM & CPU power. The only software that needs to run on that computer is a connector. Then your device communicates with a virtual Windows computer somewhere in a data center.
Companies do this because those virtual computers in a data center can be easily managed, maintained, and secured. The idea is that everything from the organization remains on the servers in the data center. This can be a data center of the company itself, but also a shared data center such as Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure.
Software called a hypervisor is installed on the powerful servers in the data center. And on that hypervisor, you can install multiple desktops, multiple versions of Windows. So, for example, you would have Windows 10 or 11 and you would run it 10 or 20 times on that one physical server.
Now the workloads can be distributed: if an employee needs to use CPU-intensive software, we can make sure they have access to it, if they need to, when they need to. In this post I’ve defined 9 benefits of a Virtual Desktop set up in no particular order and would like to delve deeper into them:- Centralized management- High flexibility for the choice of user devices- Increased security- Cost reduction- Support access to specific (legacy) applications- Support off-shoring / remote locations / affiliates- Flexible working support- Power-user support- Lower footprint
With a VDI environment, you will typically work with a “golden image”. This means that the administrator installs one (virtual) computer, with all software that is relevant for a group of employees in the company. Then, for example, the admin clones that computer a thousand times. Everyone with access to it can use that virtual computer with that software installed and managed.
With virtual desktops, all your PCs run in the data center so the admin can always access them, a user laptop often runs away from the network, during which time control is lost. If there is a software update or configuration change, the administrator changes the golden image. After a reboot, all virtual computers will have the latest version. You don’t have to do them separately and you don’t have to worry about them. It makes updating security patches or installing new software so much easier and faster.
Managing your desktops via one or more golden images will save a lot of time and simplify things considerably. You worry about updating that one master image, and automatically by the magic of your setup, all your computers are up to date. Think about it: you want to roll out a new version of your core business application, and it’s as easy for your users as asking them to log in again.
High flexibility for the choice of user devices
Users can use any device to connect to their infrastructure, so desktop repairs and/or replacements can be up and running in no time. Imagine if most of your users have thin clients: any broken device can be replaced with any other thin client you have on hand, the user connects to their applications and can continue working. They don’t have to wait for the IT admin setup & configuration.
With a good user profile management tool (eg Microsoft FSLogix) it is quite possible to provide the best user experience. Users can enjoy all the benefits of VDI without feeling like they are working in a blocked environment. Security precautions must be taken, and I urge you to be very strict, but that won’t stop you from ensuring your users can personalize their remote desktop and keep their settings between sessions. And when done right, users can access their personalized workspace from anywhere and on any device.
One of the reasons for using VDI is that the servers are always accessible, manageable, and secure. Imagine that all the people at a large company have computers and take them with them everywhere: at the office, with customers, on vacation, at home, at the airport, maybe even at your competitor’s place. So many networks over which your network and security admin have no control. It is not easy to access all those computers, a major threat to the integrity of your environment.
If your computers run in a data center, you have all the data in the data center. Then if someone steals or hacks a laptop, you don’t have to worry about that. (or a little less worry😉) You will not lose your data because it is not present on that laptop.
With VDI, all applications and data are fully centralized. This means that OS and software patches are centrally managed and deployed. You don’t have to wait for certain laptops/desktops to reconnect to the network. Those virtual desktops also all connect to the outside world (the Internet) through the same centrally managed and updated firewalls and proxy servers. In addition, you ensure that users store their data on central file servers or storage solutions, with no possibility for your users to “accidentally” save data to a local disk. And then there are the strict policies that can be put in place, often depending on the connection location. For example, it is possible to block access to USB storage devices or to block the ability to copy and paste data from your data center.
With vdi, you can dramatically reduce the cost of supporting a decentralized environment. Just think of a bank with hundreds of branches worldwide, to be able to easily serve all those small entities with the right software and services can be a very expensive affair. This is drastically reduced by using central management with VDI.
You can also save a lot on PC refresh cycles: users can access their virtual desktops from older devices or thin clients, reducing IT costs for new and expensive hardware.
Optimized use of your hardware: Because the processing takes place on the server, the hardware requirements for end devices are much lower.
By improving the application of security policies, you reduce the risk of costly security breaches (such as hacking, malware, or ransomware)
Many companies have a work from home policy that allows people to work from home 1, 2, or more days a week (or every day during Covid times). This, in combination with flexible workspaces, reduces overhead and allows companies to use smaller offices and have fewer costs, for heating/air conditioning and other power consumption. And it also keeps employees happy because they can pick up the kids from school on time and spend less time commuting.
Access to (legacy) applications
Companies have invested a lot in applications for years. Some of those applications are difficult to deploy, require very low network latency to the back-end, or are developed by a person/company that is no longer there. In many cases, it is a mission-critical application that cannot be replaced. Many of these applications exist and continuing to support them on new operating systems or in a high-latency location is often difficult or impossible.
With VDI you can offer such applications to your users in a secure way, often with an improved user experience.
People in the headquarters, connected to the LAN, can access data and applications with high speed/low latency. But what about those tens, hundreds, or even thousands of affiliates that need the same level of access? Many applications become tiring to work with when they have a high latency WAN connection. Virtual desktops can solve this problem.
Flex Working Support
Today we have super-fast connections at home, more and more planes have Wi-Fi onboard and 5G is just around the corner. Since the possibilities of high-speed internet connections are everywhere, many managers no longer request their teams to sit next to them in the same office. More and more employers want the best people for the job, wherever and whenever they work. Such flexibility can be provided with a desktop virtualization setup.
Most organizations have prepared business continuity plans. The success of such a plan is based on how well it impacts the user experience, how well it scales to solve global problems, and how well it enforces security policies. Imagine that the public transport sector is (once again) on strike, or there is a natural disaster or a pandemic. Unexpectedly, most of your staff is forced to work elsewhere. Do you want to start thinking about a solution at such a moment so that your employees can work optimally? No, I think that’s already too late, this is a time that should represent business as usual as closely as possible. A Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, if properly built, is made accessible from anywhere, without loss of productivity. And it’s built to do this safely.
In the past, one of the biggest problems with VDI was the graphics-intensive requirements. But they now have a perfect solution. I think there are no more devices available without a GPU, even your phone or tablet probably has a very powerful GPU. And the same goes for the virtual desktops for the power users who work with CAD or other graphics-intensive needs. This ensures that such applications can now also be fully supported.
In addition, VDI is also a good candidate for those few users who need server hardware to perform particularly complex calculations. Just think of simulation planners. To give those users that access without giving them effective access to the data center, desktop virtualization is the perfect solution.
Power consumption on virtual desktops is significantly low. For example, a desktop computer can consume more than 150 watts of electricity compared to a virtual desktop that uses less than 20 watts of electricity. This is because in a virtualized world you not only share CPU and memory but also electricity needs. Combining that with thin (or zero) clients and lower electricity consumption is a certainty. All of this lowers energy costs – overhead savings for the business and results in a low carbon footprint and emissions, furthering the idea of green IT
End-User Computing generates a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions through the production of millions of devices and the associated energy consumption of users. IT should not cost the earth, sustainable End User Computing means reusing, not replacing. By reusing existing devices instead of buying new computers, the carbon footprint is reduced. Using thin client computers significantly reduces emissions.