My role allows me to speak with many different people (customers, technologists, coworkers, administrators, etc). I’ve been able to see presentations comparing the different desktop virtualization solutions out there.  One of the problems I see is that many of the solutions only focus on one aspect of desktop virtualization, and that is the VDI model. 

VDI is only one aspect of the entire desktop virtualization solution.  This is a concept that many fail to comprehend. For example, I attended Gartner ITExpo last week and was amazed at how many people I talked to only thought about the VDI scenario (you know VDI, allowing you to have a remote virtual desktop running on a hypervisor in the data center).  When I talked to people about the other options, I could see their eyes light up.  

If you are reading this and only know about the VDI version, the I suggest you take a look at FlexCast to get a better understanding at all of the different options out there (FYI, even the CIO magazine identifies there is more to desktop virtualization than VDI). But in a nutshell, here’s the deal… desktop virtualization includes:

  1. Hosted shared desktop
  2. Hosted VM-based VDI desktop
  3. Hosted blade PCs
  4. Streamed local desktop
  5. Virtual Apps to installed desktops
  6. Local VM-based desktop

I want to focus on the Streamed local desktops scenario. This is the one that really got people’s attention at Gartner.  Why?  Because most organizations do not do a big bang effect of replacing their end point devices. Instead, most have a rolling lifecycle where each year a portion of the endpoints are upgraded and over the course of 3-4 years the entire desktop environment has been upgraded. Once the process completes, it starts over, never ending.  
 
Let’s now say you are embarking on a desktop virtualization project.  It seems like  a waste of resources and money to idle those desktops that are only 1 year old. They are powerful enough to run Windows 7 and the latest applications, so why would we not use the hardware we already have?  This is where the streamed local desktop comes in. It uses the same XenDesktop infrastructure, the same OS images, the same application layer and the same personalization layer.  The only thing that changed is the hardware layer.  
 
As money always seems to speak louder than words, think about it this way: If you have 3,000 desktops and they are replaced every 3 years on a rolling cycle, that means 1,000 of those desktop are less than 1 year old.  If you estimate 50-100 virtual desktops on a hypervisor (XenServer, ESX or Hyper-V) then you need 10-20 fewer physical servers, which is a substantial cost savings (and even greater if you are using a hypervisor that costs money).

So I encourage all of you to not think about the VDI-only solution but instead to look at your environment as a whole. Chances are you will see that VDI-only might work for you, but probably isn’t the best way to run your business. Think about it this way… You can create documents in Notepad, but would you really base your business on a solution that only does one thing, or would you use a more complete solution like Microsoft Word that gives you options?  

Daniel – Lead Architect – Worldwide Consulting Solutions