Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) involves running end-user desktops on Virtual Machines (VMs) that may be hosted in the cloud or on bare metal servers.
In such an environment, each user is allocated a dedicated virtual machine that runs a separate operating system. This provides an isolated environment for each employee and offers the same user experience as a traditional physical desktop.
Users can log into their VMs on any device and anywhere through a secure network. A hosted VDI provides an end-user experience through a virtualized backend which hosts VMs. One of the virtualization tools that enables it is VMware® vCloud®, which emphasizes scalability and rapid deployment.
For a long time, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure has been considered a mixed bag. While it may not be perfect for every business use case, the right VDI deployments offer optimal performance at a fraction of a price of a fleet of equally powerful physical desktops.
With the proper configuration, you can cut the cost of annual IT expenses.
At the same time, you can secure your business against ransomware and provide organization members with a widely accessible and robust solution.
Steps to a Successful VDI Implementation
As with every setup, storage, network, and servers are the most important components of a successful VDI implementation. Even though it may sound simple enough, there is much to get wrong.
When you have several hundred virtual desktops connected to a single server, the stress of a typical Monday morning, when each desktop may be booting up at the same time, might be too much for a poorly implemented, underperforming VDI project.
On-premise VDI solutions need to be carefully calculated and managed to avoid bottlenecks. However, due to the flexible nature of cloud environments, a hosted VDI implementation is far more scalable. Even so, it is crucial to use SSD accelerated storage, spread the workload, and throttle users whose workload may affect the performance of other virtual desktops.
Just remember, VDI may be complex to set up, but it makes life a lot easier in the long run.
Cost Considerations and Challenges
If you are considering VDI for your organization, but cost continues to be a challenge, a hosted VDI is a great solution. At the very beginning of VDI, a single virtual unit was up to four times as expensive as a similarly capable physical desktop.
At the time, many experts deemed virtual desktop infrastructure as a failure. However, the cost of deploying it has kept dropping while performance capabilities rose.
All this is partly thanks to utilizing cloud technologies in an attempt to deliver cost-effective, high-performance VDI. For example, phoenixNAP Virtual Private Data Center (VPDC) is delivered to you with no up-front expenses for hardware or software. You only pay for what you need and use. With contracts as short as six months, you can provision what fits your short-term plans and later add more resources if necessary.
With VDI, it is all about the long-term savings. According to Gartner, a single physical desktop can cost as much as $2,500 annually. That estimate includes the time it takes to perform monthly patching, update anti-virus software and apps, not to mention sending IT staff to each user’s desk. On the other hand, virtual desktops can all be maintained as a single device.
The widespread introduction of thin clients has further reduced the costs, as these specialized PC devices are cheap and made with VDI in mind. Thin clients tend to use less power, be less vulnerable to malware attacks, and have longer life cycles. Since they often do not have any moving parts and since software updates occur at the server end, there is no worry that the device will become incompatible over time.
If a device fails, the machine can be replaced in a matter of minutes, rather than hours. Just think about the amounts of precious time and money this saves. And the beauty of it is that you can wipe the dust off a 15-year old Dell desktop, plug it in, power it up, log into your virtual desktop and run all the latest apps.
Performance Is Not an Issue Anymore
Not so long ago, Intel launched its new Intel® Xeon® E3-1500 v5 processor featuring Iris Pro P580, a powerful on-chip GPU. Paired with an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) model, it was a match made in heaven for a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure implementation.
There is no reason to break the bank for an on-premise solution when you can opt for a pay-as-you-go implementation that brings accessible fully capable virtual desktops.
Medical professionals, engineers, and content creators alike can run graphically intense software. Be it video rendering or working in 3D CAD software, VDI supports all types of applications.
If you take into consideration that you need a top end device for this line of work and that you need to update your hardware every two years or so, a virtual desktop setup can bring massive savings to your organization. On top of that, with up to 99.999% uptime, cloud services provide great reliability and performance, all in one package.
Security of VDI Deployments
VDI is particularly useful when businesses have to deal with critical and confidential data. The fact that end-users can only access a virtualized application entrusts admins that the virtual desktop environment will stay safe even if an individual user’s experience is compromised.
When talking about physical theft, VDI is the safest implementation option for a business environment. For example, if an employee’s business laptop gets stolen, you can rest assured that no confidential data has been exposed. The storage unit on the machine will have no relevant business data as all important information is safely stored back in the data center.
By utilizing a virtualized environment for your VDI implementation, you get a peace of mind knowing that users are accessing the platform through an encrypted secure tunnel. Citrix XenApp or Microsoft RDSH VDI deployments provide an extra security layer by giving end-users access to the user interface only. It does not grant non-authorized users access to the management console itself. Every action is tracked through a management interface, which is perfect for PCI and HIPAA compliance requirements.
We can safely say that hosting VDI on cloud infrastructure is the obvious cost-effective and secure deployment method. It offers numerous advantages to businesses with this type of needs.
One Security Management System to Rule Them All
All users, but admins especially, need to stay vigilant as ransomware is on the rise. Do not forget to take this into consideration - all business data is much safer in a data center. As an inherently secure architecture, data center protects critical workloads. It makes them safer than if they were sitting partially or barely secured on a physical desktop.
I can bet you there is not a single physical desktop in a business environment that is nearly as secure as a Virtual Private Data Center paired with an app virtualization and VDI solution.
As Adam Stern from Infinitely Virtual puts it, “security is a process, not an event.” What he means by this is that we must not just perform a test, tick the right check-boxes and move on. We need to make it a continual effort to secure each entry point and device. With a centralized VDI environment, it is much easier to set up and maintain your business data.
Centralized data is easier to manage, as you have only one entry point. That makes patch management much easier, as you do not have to worry about a multitude of devices in every office. It also simplifies project management and user profile management, which are essential for maintaining high data security levels.
Your IT department will enjoy full control over centrally managed Microsoft apps and virtual desktops enabling them to preconfigure security policies based on user roles.
Of course, with a centrally managed system, a disaster recovery and continuity plan must be taken into consideration. Centralized data should be replicated offsite for a greater level of safety.
One of the key advantages of VDI is accessibility. Organization members can access the end-user interface via any device, be it an underperforming business laptop, desktop, thin client, micro PC, Android or Apple OS device. You can even run it on Raspberry Pi. Users get global access to any virtual app from any device, without the need for a VPN connection or cross-device synchronization.
The application will appear to be running locally. In reality, however, it is safely stored in the data center where your admins can set up firewalls and manage the application package. The end-users will never notice any difference. VDI can run on thin clients and deliver the IT horsepower necessary to run your day-to-day business operations.
In addition to this, cost reduction opportunities are obvious. If you’re running a global enterprise with team members and contractors scattered all over the world, virtual desktops are your best option. Just imagine the alternative – an IT department that would have to issue PCs and manage updates and security threats worldwide.
The cloud is perfect for collaboration, we all know that. And VDI can take it to another level as there is much room to mix and match. For example, the ten largest healthcare systems in the U.S., employing around 3 million caregivers, use virtualization to access electronic medical record (EMR) systems every day.
The IT and security requirements in healthcare are unique. Caregivers need access to medical files anywhere and on any device, as there is a need to provide medical attention ever closer to the patient - in their home or place of work. On the other hand, ensuring data privacy and being HIPAA and PCI-DSS compliant is a must.
That is where virtualization comes into play. Apps and data are hosted in a data center, ensuring all security requirements are met, while caregivers are presented with an end-user interface through a secure network. Here, they can easily access medical files and focus on their work. This facilitates a more mobile approach to delivering healthcare services and saves numerous lives as medical professionals can act quickly in case of an emergency.
There’s a really good chance that your organization already has a couple of apps in the cloud. Moving desktops is not as easy, just because of all the data that would need to be moved as well. Many organizations seem hesitant to make the change but now appears to be the perfect time to consider a move to the cloud.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure benefits your security, continuity, and accessibility needs. Your IT department will appreciate the exquisite level of security and central management. On the other hand, your employees will love the ease of access, anywhere and on any device. As opposed to the on-premise solutions of the past, a hosted solution is cheaper and does not come with any upfront fees, while the hardware behind it can support even graphically intensive workloads.
Everything is going to the cloud, and workstations will not be any different.
Hosting Virtual Desktops with PhoenixNAP
PhoenixNAP Virtual Private Data Center (VPDC) is a perfect cost-effective solution for your Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) implementation. It will allow you to move apps to the cloud without any changes, leverage next-gen architecture, and set up cloud services in only a few hours.
BENEFITS OF OUR VPDC FOR HOSTED VDI:
- Optimized for next-generation desktop infrastructure
- Supports Citrix® XenDesktop™ and Microsoft RDSH
- SSD Accelerated Storage gives you lighting fast desktop performance