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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is Here to Stay

The virtual desktop has been getting a lot of attention these days, but what are the true advantages and disadvantages of virtualizing the end user’s work environment?

Not too long ago, when a company hired a new employee in a corporate setting, a desktop or laptop purchase was associated with that new hire. And along with that, other costs were associated with the hardware such as licensing, cabling (if required), power use, support and maintenance. A lot of the costs were not a day-one spend, but came over time and in most cases were recurring, as end users and PCs required hardware and software updates or replacement.

When I worked as a desktop support tech, I fielded countless calls to fix end-user issues related to PCs and software problems. Most of the time I had to cover more than one building. This meant taking a company vehicle for a drive or walking across the way, which took time away from actual work. It also made me visible to users, who loved to catch me on the way and try to recruit me for what they called a “quick fix.” Those days are gone, and today there is a better way—or maybe I should say another way—of doing things when it comes to supporting the end user, their desktop OS, data, and PC.

While it didn’t make the list for this year, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has been singled out on Gartner’s Top Ten technology initiatives in the past—“virtualization” was number one on the list of Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2009. However, I think this year is when it really starts to take hold. Companies are finally starting to see that there are real solutions that don’t have to be overly complex to implement, and VMware View is a good example. VMware released View 5 this year, and made many improvements to its desktop virtualization solution. I love the simplicity VMware View brings to configuring and managing VDI and end-user access.

VMware View aims to centralize management of the end-user desktop and does it well. It still requires an endpoint like a laptop, tablet, or thin client to interface with, but all the goods are in the datacenter. The administrator and end user can access the desktop from just about any device. The user also has the flexibility to access their desktop whether they’re in the building, or not. Shared desktops can be configured for the many end users that do not need a dedicated desktop, allowing the company to consolidate infrastructure, and licensing in many cases. Virus protection and data security can be centralized and centrally managed for desktops as well.

VMware View leverages the popular and proven vSphere hypervisor with vCenter management suite. To get up and running just requires the View Connector server and a supported client or end point, if you already have a vSphere environment. To take full advantage of the automated provisioning with link clones requires the View Composer, which is installed on the vCenter server. Offline desktops must have a Transfer Server. The Security Server component can be configured on a standalone server in the DMZ for external access to the View farm. All management of virtual desktops and View components is done through the View Administrator’s single Web interface.

If you haven’t evaluated deploying VDI, it’s worth it. At the very least, you’re missing out on something good.

Antone Heyward / Sep 28, 2011

Antone Heyward is an IT Professional with years of experience working with Windows Server, Virtualization (VMware, HyperV and Citrix XenServer), shared storage environments and datacenter infrastru...more