Desktop virtualization is technology that lets users simulate a workstation load to access a desktop from a connected device remotely or locally. This separates the desktop environment and its applications from the physical client device used to access it. Desktop virtualization is a key element of digital workspaces and depends on application virtualization.
Desktop virtualization can be achieved in a variety of ways, but the most important two types of desktop virtualization are based on whether the operating system instance is local or remote.
Local desktop virtualization means the operating system runs on a client device using hardware virtualization, and all processing and workloads occur on local hardware. This type of desktop virtualization works well when users do not need a continuous network connection and can meet application computing requirements with local system resources. However, because this requires processing to be done locally you cannot use local desktop virtualization to share VMs or resources across a network to thin clients or mobile devices.
Remote desktop virtualization is a common use of virtualization that operates in a client/server computing environment. This allows users to run operating systems and applications from a server inside a data center while all user interactions take place on a client device. This client device could be a laptop, thin client device, or a smartphone. The result is IT departments have more centralized control over applications and desktops, and can maximize the organization’s investment in IT hardware through remote access to shared computing resources.
A popular type of desktop virtualization is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI is a variant of the client-server model of desktop virtualization which uses host-based VMs to deliver persistent and nonpersistent virtual desktops to all kinds of connected devices. With a persistent virtual desktop, each user has a unique desktop image that they can customize with apps and data, knowing it will be saved for future use. A nonpersistent virtual desktop infrastructure allows users to access a virtual desktop from an identical pool when they need it; once the user logs out of a nonpersistent VDI, it reverts to its unaltered state. Some of the advantages of virtual desktop infrastructure are improved security and centralized desktop management across an organization.