SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Liz McMillan, Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, William Schmarzo, Dana Gardner

Article

VDI - Citrix? VMware? Or should you even care?

VDI deployments bring significant benefits but is it right for your infrastructure?

PCs are part of everyday life in just about every organization. First there’s the purchase of the hardware and the necessary software followed by an inventory recorded and maintained by the IT department. Then normal procedure would dictate that the same IT department would then install all required applications before delivering them physically to the end user. Then over a period of time the laptop/PC would be maintained by the IT department with software updates, patches, troubleshooting etc. to ensure full utilization of employees. Once the PC/laptop becomes outdated, the IT department is then tasked with the monotonous task of removing the hardware, deleting sensitive data and removing any installed applications to free up licenses. All of this is done to enable the whole cycle to be repeated all over again. So in this vicious circle, there are obvious opportunities to better manage resources and save unnecessary OPEX & CAPEX costs, one such solution being virtual desktops.

Having witnessed the financial rewards of server virtualization, enterprises are now taking note of the benefits and usage of virtualization to support their desktop workloads. Consolidation, centralization are now no longer buzz words which were once used for marketing spin but are instead tangible realities for IT managers who initially took that unknown plunge into what was then the deep mystical waters of virtualization. Now they’re also realizing that by enabling thin clients the cost of their endpoint hardware is also significantly driven down by the consequent lifespan extension of existing PCs. Indeed the future of endpoint devices is one that could revolutionize their existent IT offices – a future of PC/laptop-less office desks replaced by thin client compatible portable iPads? Anything is now possible.

There’s also no doubting that VDI brings with it even further advantages one being improved security. With data always being administered via the datacenter rather than from the vulnerability of an end user’s desktop, risks of data loss or theft are instantly mitigated. No longer can sensitive data potentially walk out of the company’s front doors. Also with centralized administration, data can instantly be protected from scenarios where access needs to be limited or copying needs protection. For example a company that has numerous outsourcers / contractors on site can quickly set their data and application access to be specified or even turned off. Indeed there is nothing stopping an organization in setting up ‘a contractor’ desktop template which can be provisioned instantly and then decommissioned the moment the outsourced party’s contract expires. 

By centralizing the infrastructure, fully compliant backup policies can also become significantly easier. With PCs and hard drives constantly crashing leading to potential data loss, the centralized virtual desktop has an underlying infrastructure which is continuously backed up. Additionally with the desktop instance not being bound to the PC’s local storage but instead stored in the server, recovery from potential outages are significantly quicker with even the option of reverting the virtual desktops back to their last known good states. Imagine the amount of work the customary employees that constantly bombard the IT helpdesk with countless “help I’ve accidentally deleted my hard drive” phone calls could actually get done now, not to mention the amount of time it will free up for your IT helpdesk team. In fact you might even end up with an IT helpdesk that gets to answer the phone instead of taking you straight to voicemail.

Additionally an IT helpdesk team would also be better utilized with the centralized, server-based approach allowing for both the maintenance of desktop images and specific user data all without having to visit the end user’s office. Hence with nothing needing to be installed on the endpoint, deployment becomes incredibly faster and easier with VDI than the traditional PC desktop deployment. This can also be extended to the laborious practice of having to individually visit each desktop to patch applications, provision and decommission users, as well as upgrade to newer operating systems. By removing such activities, the OPEX savings are more than substantial. 
OPEX savings can also be seen with the added benefit of optimizing the productivity of highly paid non-technical end users by avoiding them having to needlessly maintain their desktop applications and data. Furthermore the productivity of employees can also be improved significantly by a centralized control of which applications are used by end users and a full monitoring of their usage, so long gone should be the days of employees downloading torrents or mindlessly chatting away on social networks during working hours. Even the infamously slow start up time of Windows which has consequently brought with it the traditional yet unofficial morning coffee/cigarette break can be eradicated with the faster Windows boot up times found with VDI. Even lack of access to an employee’s corporate PC can no longer be used as an excuse to not log in from home or elsewhere remotely when required – a manager’s dream and a slacker’s nightmare.

So with all these benefits, where lies the risk or obstacle to adopting a VDI infrastructure for your company? Well as with most technology there rarely exists a one solution fits all scenario and VDI is no different. Prior to any consideration for VDI, a company must first assess their infrastructure and whether VDI could indeed reap these benefits or alternatively possibly cause it more problems.
One of the first issues to look for is whether the organization has a high percentage of end users which manipulate complex or very large files. In other words if a high proportion of end users are constantly in need of using multimedia, 2D or 3D modeling applications, or VOIP, than VDI should possibly be reconsidered for a better managed desktop environment. The performance limitations that came about with server-based computing platforms such as Microsoft's Terminal Services with regards to bandwidth, latency and graphics capabilities are still fresh in the mind of many old school IT end users and without the correct pre-assessment those old monsters could rear their ugly head. For example an infrastructure that has many end users using high performance / real time applications should think carefully before going down the VDI route regardless of what the sales guys claim.

Despite this though if having taken all this into consideration and realizing your environment is suited to a VDI deployment the benefits and consequent savings are extensive despite the initial expenditure. As for which solution to take this leads to another careful consideration and one that needs to be investigated beyond the usual vendor marketing hype. 

Firstly when it comes to server virtualization, there currently is no threatening competition (certainly not in the Enterprise infrastructure) to VMware’s VSphere 4. In the context of desktop virtualization though, the story has been somewhat different. Citrix’s XenDeskTop for those who’ve deployed it certainly know that it has better application compatibility than VMview 3. Add to the problems of multimedia freeze framing that would often occur with the VMview 3 solution and Citrix looked to have cornered a market in the virtual sphere which initially seemed destined to be monopolized by VMware. Since then VMware have hit back with VMview 4 which brought in the vastly improved PCOIP display protocol which dwarfs their original RDS protocol and simplified their integration with Active Directory and overall installation of the product, but in performance terms XenDeskTop still has an edge. So it comes as no surprise that rumours are rife that VMWorld 2010 which is soon to take place in a couple of weeks will be the launching pad for VMview 4.5 and a consequent onslaught on the Citrix VDI model. Subsequent retaliation is bound to follow from Citrix who seemed to have moved their focus away from the server virtualization realm in favour of the VDI milieu which can only be better for the clients that they are aiming for. Already features such as Offline Desktop, which allow end users to download and run their virtual desktops offline and then later resynchronize with the data center are being developed beyond the beta stage. 

So the fact remains that quickly provisioning desktops from a master image and instantly administering policies, patches and updates without affecting user settings, data or preferences is an advantage many will find hard to ignore. So while VDI has still many areas for improvement, depending on your infrastructure it may already be an appropriate time to reap the rewards of its numerous benefits.


More Stories By Archie Hendryx

SAN, NAS, Back Up / Recovery & Virtualisation Specialist.

Latest Stories
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous importa...
Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DXWorldEXPO within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throughout enterprises of all sizes. We are offering early bird savings...
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (November 12-13, 2018, New York City) today announced the outline and schedule of the track. "The track has been designed in experience/degree order," said Schmarzo. "So, that folks who attend the entire track can leave the conference with some of the skills necessary to get their work done when they get back to their offices. It actually ties back to some work that I'm doing at the University of San...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Nutanix has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO New York, which will take place November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Nutanix makes infrastructure invisible, elevating IT to focus on the applications and services that power their business. The Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform blends web-scale engineering and consumer-grade design to natively converge server, storage, virtualization and networking into a resilient, softwar...
Having been in the web hosting industry since 2002, dhosting has gained a great deal of experience while working on a wide range of projects. This experience has enabled the company to develop our amazing new product, which they are now excited to present! Among dHosting's greatest achievements, they can include the development of their own hosting panel, the building of their fully redundant server system, and the creation of dhHosting's unique product, Dynamic Edge.
Only Adobe gives everyone - from emerging artists to global brands - everything they need to design and deliver exceptional digital experiences. Adobe Systems Incorporated develops, markets, and supports computer software products and technologies. The Company's products allow users to express and use information across all print and electronic media. The Company's Digital Media segment provides tools and solutions that enable individuals, small and medium businesses and enterprises to cre...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
To Really Work for Enterprises, MultiCloud Adoption Requires Far Better and Inclusive Cloud Monitoring and Cost Management … But How? Overwhelmingly, even as enterprises have adopted cloud computing and are expanding to multi-cloud computing, IT leaders remain concerned about how to monitor, manage and control costs across hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. It’s clear that traditional IT monitoring and management approaches, designed after all for on-premises data centers, are falling short in ...
Hackers took three days to identify and exploit a known vulnerability in Equifax’s web applications. I will share new data that reveals why three days (at most) is the new normal for DevSecOps teams to move new business /security requirements from design into production. This session aims to enlighten DevOps teams, security and development professionals by sharing results from the 4th annual State of the Software Supply Chain Report -- a blend of public and proprietary data with expert researc...
"Deloitte" is the brand under which tens of thousands of dedicated professionals in independent firms throughout the world collaborate to provide audit & assurance, consulting, risk and financial advisory, risk management, tax, and related services to select clients. These firms are members of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee ("DTTL"). Each DTTL member firm provides services in particular geographic areas and is subject to the laws and professional regu...
Your job is mostly boring. Many of the IT operations tasks you perform on a day-to-day basis are repetitive and dull. Utilizing automation can improve your work life, automating away the drudgery and embracing the passion for technology that got you started in the first place. In this presentation, I'll talk about what automation is, and how to approach implementing it in the context of IT Operations. Ned will discuss keys to success in the long term and include practical real-world examples. Ge...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
Despite being the market leader, we recognized the need to transform and reinvent our business at Dynatrace, before someone else disrupted the market. Over the course of three years, we changed everything - our technology, our culture and our brand image. In this session we'll discuss how we navigated through our own innovator's dilemma, and share takeaways from our experience that you can apply to your own organization.
There's no doubt that blockchain technology is a powerful tool for the enterprise, but bringing it mainstream has not been without challenges. As VP of Technology at 8base, Andrei is working to make developing a blockchain application accessible to anyone. With better tools, entrepreneurs and developers can work together to quickly and effectively launch applications that integrate smart contracts and blockchain technology. This will ultimately accelerate blockchain adoption on a global scale.