What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

Posted in security, big-ip, cloud computing, mobile, vdi, devcentral, infrastructure, access by psilva on March 8th, 2017

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What is VDI?

vdicon.jpgImagine not having to carry around a laptop or be sitting in a cubicle to access your work desktop applications. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is appealing to many different constituencies because it combines the benefits of anywhere access with desktop support improvements.

Employees typically use a wide range of mobile devices from laptops to tablets and from desktops to smartphones are being used. The diversity of these mobile devices and the sheer number of them in the workplace can overwhelm IT and strain your resources.

Desktop Virtualization centralizes sets of desktops, usually in a data center or cloud environment, and then provide access to your employees whether they are in the office, at home or mobile.  VDI deployments virtualize user desktops by delivering them to distinctive endpoint devices over the network from a central location. There are many reasons why organizations deploy VDI solutions – it’s easier for IT to manage, it can reduce capital expenditures, improve security and helps companies run a ‘greener’ business.

Since users’ primary work tools are now located in a data center rather than on their own local machines, VDI can strain network resources, and the user experience can be negatively affected. Desktop virtualization is a bit more complex than server virtualization since it requires more network infrastructure, servers, server administrators, authentication systems, and storage. VDI’s effect on the network is significant; it may necessitate infrastructure changes to accommodate the large volume of client information that will be traversing the network. When a user’s desktop moves from a physical machine under the desk to the data center, the user experience becomes paramount; a poor VDI deployment will result in IT being flooded with “My desktop is too slow” calls.

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Why VDI?

Mobile devices and bring your own computing are popular drivers for VDI deployments.  It enables employees to work from anywhere and simplifies/unifies desktop management, especially updating operating systems and applications.  It can lower costs, provide flexible remote access; improve security and compliance along with potentially offering organizations disaster recovery options.  It also enables employee flexibility and reduced IT risk of employee owned devices. VDI allows employees work with a wide range of devices from laptops to tablets to smartphones.  Employees can sign on from wherever they are, whenever they like and with whichever device they choose.

Deploying virtual desktops can also increase IT efficiency and reduce IT workload since the desktops are centralized.  It also benefits IT with greater access and compliance control, while at the same time, allowing employees the freedom to use their mobile device of choice. IT departments can remove obsolete versions of application software or perhaps enhance the security policy. Either way, the employee always has the most up to date desktop image.

Things to Consider

Desktop virtualization is no longer about the desktop, it’s about allowing employees desktop access from wherever they are. So things like availability, access, security, DR, authentication, storage, network latency and SSO are all areas to keep in mind when deploying a VDI solution.

VDI Providers

Some VDI solutions include VMware View, Citrix XenDesktop, and Microsoft RDS.

Next Steps

If you'd like to learn more or dig deeper into VDI, here are some additional resources:

Also, here are some other articles from the #Basics Series.