Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Understanding Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): An Overview


In traditional desktop computing, each user has their own physical desktop computer. With Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), the desktop environment runs within virtual machines (VMs) on centralized server hardware at a data center. Users access their individual virtual desktops from different client devices using a remote display protocol.

Server-Based Computing

With VDI, the core computing resources like CPU, memory, storage, and graphics processing are consolidated on powerful yet centralized server systems located in the data center. This server-based computing model allows enterprises to deploy, manage, update and support users’ desktop environments from a central location. The servers do all the heavy lifting while users get full desktop functionality on any endpoint device.

Benefits of Thin Client Access

To access their Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, users can connect from any “thin” or low-powered client device like PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones etc. These thin clients serve as terminals that render and display the virtual desktop streamed from the servers. By separating the front-end client from the back-end server resources, VDI provides flexibility in where and how users can access their desktops across different locations.

Centralized Management and Administration

Since all desktop environments are virtualized, IT teams can centrally install, configure, update and maintain the pooled desktop images from a single console. Newer versions of applications, patches and security updates can be rolled out to all users simultaneously through the golden images. Remote troubleshooting and support is also simplified through features like desktop control and remote assistance.

Improved Security and Compliance

With Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), sensitive data never resides on the endpoint devices. All user files, applications and settings are stored securely on the data center servers which have robust physical access controls and security monitoring. There’s no risk of data loss or malware infection from unsecured personal devices. Audit logging and resource isolation further enhance security and regulatory compliance capabilities.

Enhanced Application Delivery

VDI makes it easy to stream resource-intensive applications from high-powered servers to all types of thin clients. Graphics-heavy CAD/CAM programs, medical imaging software, financial modeling tools that require graphics processing can now run smoothly on any endpoint, even legacy devices. IT can also stream different sets of applications to different user groups based on their department or job role.

Lower TCO Over Time

While initial VDI deployment requires upfront investment in servers, ongoing total cost of ownership (TCO) is lower than physical desktops. Key factors like reduced hardware refreshes, centralized management and application updates, and BYOD support help recoup costs more quickly. Downsizing physical infrastructure and reallocating resources leads to lower power consumption and space requirements as well.

Key Challenges of VDI Implementation

High Upfront Infrastructure Costs

Setting up a VDI deployment with hardware, licences, tools etc represents a major capital expenditure. The costs of high-performance servers, storage area networks (SAN), GPU solutions, and sufficient network bandwidth must be factored in. This makes VDI implementation feasible only for larger enterprises with deeper pockets.

Resource Intensive Workloads

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) puts tremendous strain on servers since each VM needs dedicated CPU, RAM, disk and network resources. Applications requiring heavy graphics processing or 3D modeling can quickly saturate servers if not properly scaled. Sufficient number of high-core processors and robust storage solutions are essential to support hundreds of concurrent desktop sessions.

Poor User Experience Management

Without robust user experience management tools, common issues like video rendering delays, bandwidth bottlenecks and interface lag can seriously degrade productivity. IT teams must optimally tune VM resources, monitor resource utilization and troubleshoot performance bottlenecks at scale for thousands of users.

Client Device Compatibility

Supporting different hardware specifications and OS versions across diverse endpoint devices poses management challenges. Issues with device drivers, display protocols or video codec incompatibility will directly impact the end-user experience and satisfaction levels. Standardization is difficult to achieve across bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scenarios.

Network Latency Impacts

Minimum latency thresholds must be maintained over high-bandwidth links for seamless interactivity. But large datasets transfers or graphics-intense operations over wide-area networks can introduce noticeable response lags, especially on wireless links. Application and OS tuning is required to minimize the effects of latency.

Security and Backup Complexities

Maintaining security isolation between VMs while allowing controlled inter-VM communication is challenging. Robust backup strategies are needed to protect user profiles, apps and data stored on centralized servers in the event of failures. Regular DR drills help address RTO/RPO objectives for business continuity.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) presents an compelling concept for centralized desktop virtualization. While upfront costs are high, optimally implemented VDI solutions can offer exemplary management, security and compliance benefits. Addressing performance and user experience challenges will ensure long-term success and acceptance across the enterprise.

1.  Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it