What is VDI? – A Comprehensive Guide For 2021

Ajay Ohri
  1. What is VDI or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
  2. Types of VDI
  3. How does it all work?
  4. What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure on Cloud. 
  5. Benefits of VDI
  6. Disadvantages of VDI
  7. VDI cloud and its Benefits
  8. Hardware and Software Interplay

1) What is VDI or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

To understand VDI, you have to be able to wrap your head around virtualization first. Virtualization is the process of provisioning virtual desktops running an operating system of your choice and on suitable virtual hardware configurations, all within your own work environment ( which by the way is another operating system ). Now, what is a virtual desktop? Virtual desktops are pre-configured operating system images(desktop workstation or server operating system), along with bundled application software that is abstracted from the physical device it is run on, typically a thin client which these virtual desktops are run. Maybe a graphic would put things into perspective.

To get a deeper understanding lets look at what is virtualization. Virtualization is creating a virtual version of a computer, complete with a virtual CPU, virtual memory, virtual hard drive, virtual graphics card, even a virtual NIC. Where this is created and hosted makes the difference.

 You could create your own virtual machine for your own use in the latest operating systems like Windows 10 and any of the Linux flavours. The idea is to distribute your existing hardware between 2 or more machines, one of them being your physical machine. The virtual machines you create can be running any operating system(desktop workstation or server operating systems) and application software, independent of your physical machine. 

2) Types of VDI 

Based on the persistence property, the VDIs can be categorized into Persistent VDI and Non-Persistent VDI.

  • Persistent VDI: As the name suggests, this type will save itself, so when you log on, you get your machine the way you left it the last time. An essential requirement is that the user connects to the same desktop each time he/she logs on. Any changes or personalization of the desktop will be saved or persisted.
  • Non-Persistent VDI: In this type of VDI, any changes to the virtual machine will not be persisted or saved for the next login session. It will be like fresh provisioning of the machine without any user customization.

3) How does it all work?

  • The virtual machines host a virtual desktop and are hosted on a server. Each virtual desktop may be a desktop workstation or a server operating system based on your preference and use case, bundled along with typical application software.
  • A special system software called hypervisor creates, runs and manages these machines on the server ready to be provisioned.

4) What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure on Cloud. 

The use of a public or private cloud to provision a VDI is referred to as VDI Cloud working on the same lines as Software as a Service. VDI Cloud can be further categorized as Managed VDI Cloud and Desktop as a Service.

Managed VDI Cloud : In this solution, an outsourced fully managed service is leveraged for your VDI infrastructure.

Desktop as a Service(DaaS) :This is a multi tenant offering mostly on a public cloud, although private cloud offering is available. The cloud service provider typically takes total responsibility of hosting and maintaining the VDI.

5) Benefits of VDI

  • Simplify IT Management: With every instance managed on a central location, IT management is simplified to a great extent. Any updates or additional software can be easily incorporated into images than having to change software on each individual physical machine. With hardly any downtime on updates and installations and quick provisioning of new systems, production downtime is minimized to great extent. 
  • Gain Control: IT gets to exercise greater control over the installed base, with images customized for various user groups, allowing for controlled usage, minimizing security risks.
  • Enhanced Flexibility: VDI brings in agility in the way business is conducted. New images can be spun up in minutes and deployed for use of a new user group or use case. With VDI, you get to work on practically any device as long as there is internet on the machine. With this advantage, the workforce can bring in their own device to work, be it a smartphone a tablet or a laptop.
  • Drive Cost Savings: Although the initial investment in an on-premise data center is on the high side, with many users opting for smartphones and tablets, the cost of VDI has come down to a great extent. On the cloud it’s a different story, with pay as you use offerings and negligible VDI maintenance cost, this definitely seems more attractive from a cost perspective.

6) Disadvantages of VDI

  • Upfront cost : The upfront investment on VD Infrastructure exceeds the cost of setting up the infrastructure in the traditional sense to the extent that it can be prohibitive sometimes.
  • Licensing cost : Licensing comes with it is own set of costs in VDI which businesses tend to underestimate during planning stages. Thus a lot of planning an future strategy needs to be baked in before finalizing on a license.
  • Long Learning Curve : The learning curve for VDI is a bit of a challenge as per industry analysts. It will take time before the staff is fluid with the system and you get to see the actual benefits roll in..

7) VDI cloud and its Benefits

VDI cloud seems to alleviate most of these concerns with fully managed services taking care of the nitty-gritty stuff. Also with pay, as you go models, the cost of maintaining an on-premise VDI is virtually nullified. But this brings its own perils. Security on a cloud, be it public or private isn’t really up to the levels you would have on a privately owned VDI. So if you are baking something that the world wants to know but you want to keep it a secret, you better have your own kitchen.

8) Hardware and Software Interplay

Lets look at the software and hardware components that help in setting up your VDI.

First up you have the hardware, the huge pool of hardware that you should carefully plan for making available to your workforce. This part gets simpler on the cloud. You can provision more hardware as you go, basis your consumption and use case, so you don’t need to purchase all the hardware upfront.

Sitting on top of this hardware is the server operating system to which the client computers will connect.


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