VDI: Heres the Catch
Unfortunately, it isn't that straightforward. Designing, purchasing, installing and maintaining a VDI solution and the infrastructure needed to run it (servers, storage, network, security) can cause an enterprise to rack up enormous capital and operating expenses. This isn't simply a matter of downloading a free hypervisor and building a few images. You'll need the storage to house all those images and retrieve them quickly, so you'll have to add to your existing Fibre Channel or iSCSI SAN (storage area network) or buy a new one. Pushing tens of thousands of 25GB images from SAN to server to thin clients essentially requires you to upgrade the data center backbone to a 10G-bps switched environment while running 1G bps to users' desks. Anything less and you'll risk performance bottlenecks choking the life out of your VDI initiative before it gets off the ground.VDI changes the paradigm and increases management complexity for the desktop support team; besides, I have seen what happens when responsibilities overlap between desktop and server support groups, and it isn't pretty. You're going to have to get server, desktop, storage and network support teams on the same page in order to succeed. Make sure that management conveys the importance of working together to all of these teams.Our sister publication, Baseline, recently reported that 30 percent of the executives who participated in a Ziff Davis Enterprise Research study expect deployment of VDI to increase at their companies. Will this make 2010 the year of the virtual desktop? Gartner seems to think so. In August 2007 the analyst company predicted that "by the end of 2010 all new PC deployments will be virtualized." In 2008 it predicted implementation by "fewer than 40 percent of target users by 2010." In 2009, it predicted that the market "will accelerate through 2013 to reach 49 million units, up from more than 500,000 units in 2009." Yet with all the interest and predictions, VDI implementation has been advancing like maple syrup on ice. Is this because of the technology, the perceptions of buyers, the general economic climate or all three? The good news is that the technology behind VDI is advancing rapidly. In addition, servers and storage are getting faster and cheaper and are handling virtual workloads better. The cost of 10G-bps and 1G-bps switches continues to fall. My colleague Cameron Sturdevant's recent review of VMware View 4 demonstrates that the new proprietary VMware remote control protocol, PCoIP, improves performance over low-bandwidth networks. In addition, driver, printer and monitor support has been vastly improved, expanding the number of use cases for which VDI may be a good solution.