Well, for those of you who were able to attend Burton Catalyst 2009 in San Diego the other week, you probably noticed the number of sessions focused on VDI.  The first one I want to talk about is McHenry Savings Bank and their move to VDI.  Based on the discussion, their pre-VDI deployment consisted of the following:

  • 130 Desktops purchased in 2001
  • Windows 2000 SP4
  • 1 Day desktop creation time
  • No device consistency

Although this is not a large desktop environment, they do run very lean with 2 people managing the entire IT environment, which includes hardware, networking, IP phones, ATMs, desktops and software. As you can imagine, these two people have their hands full and probably had little time to focus on improving the environment because they were spending most of their time in a support fashion.
What I found particularly fascinating about their VDI story was not so much about the infrastructure and VDI solution they used but what they used as a success criteria: electricity.  Many of the benefits I’ve seen in VDI is based on simplification. Using a single desktop image for hundreds of users simplifies support.  But in their solution, they used a 1:1 relationship between user/VM (each user had their own unique VM).  Over 3 years they said they had cost savings of roughly $23,000 over 3 years just for the desktop device due to the low power consumption of the desktop appliance (I do question these numbers as they did not take into account the power consumption of their new servers that are used to virtualize the desktop).  
They also broke down the costs (including desktop hardware) and showed a net savings of $19,000 over 3 years, but again they failed to take into account the cost of the 8 servers that would host the virtual desktops.
From my perspective, one of the more interesting points were the challenges with VDI, which I believe is important for any one considering a move to VDI. Based on the solution they selected, the following were their challenges:

  • Graphic intensive applications and speed issues across the WAN
  • Centralization of virtual desktops not possible over limited WAN bandwidth
  • No Central location of all VMs. (VM Sprawl)
  • Some limitations on peripheral support
  • Finding weaknesses in local LAN as it is now critical

I think when looking at a VDI solution, you need to consider the branch office. What impact will the WAN have on VDI plans? Can the transport protocol used provide enough resilience and responsiveness over WAN connections?  
But one thing is definite based on the story McHenry Savings Bank told, delivering a new desktop to a user is now as easy as plugging in a device.  That is truly a huge improvement. Nice work
Note: This blog was brought to you from a hosted XenDesktop virtual desktop with a XenApp-streamed Firefox browser.

Daniel – Lead Architect – Worldwide Consulting Solutions
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