A traditional desktop PC and laptop deployment in an organization has the operating system, user data and local application set all residing on the physical device that sits in front of the individual employees. Historically, this model was necessary due to insufficient local network performance and capacities within the organization, which necessitated the processing power and storage to be as close to the end user as possible.
Although solving the problem of the end user experience, this deployment model has its drawbacks and with the vast improvement in organizations local networks over the last couple of years, it is no longer the only model to consider.
Virtual Desktops are such an alternative. Through the use of the same types of technologies that allow us to virtualize servers (separating the logical server from the physical server) we can now do the same with the traditional desktop. Through virtualizing the desktop, the logical desktop resides on a server farm in the datacenter with the end user device essentially now acting as a presentation platform. No longer is the user device dependent or bound by a particular geographic location. Granted permission users can now securely access their virtual desktop from any device, at any time and in any location.
In a traditional deployment model, with the three data sets residing on the physical device, the organization (especially when considering laptops and a mobile workforce) is putting it’sits data at risk. Often only the user drives and other network shares are backed up and the locally stored data (the C: Drive) and configurations are not. So when (not if) a device fails, the data is often hard to retrieve. Even worse, if the device is lost or stolen, not only can the organization not retrieve the data, but it may end up in the wrong hands. Further it may be unclear as to exactly what corporate information was lost in the first place!
Although providing the end user a similar look and feel to their existing platform, the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) provides a simple and reliable way for the organization to backup and protect all their corporate and user data on a regular basis. If the particular device the end user is working with breaks, they can be back up and running again in minutes by swapping out the access device with another; be that a thin client, laptop, iPad or other. The downtime the user experiences is now measured in minutes as opposed to hours. Not only that but as the data is never stored on the end user device, the only loss to the organization is the cost of the physical hardware.
A virtual desktop deployment can also result in an operational cost savings. Through simplifying the end user hardware, the majority of the maintenance is now conducted on the centralized server farm. Due to the configuration and VMWare tools deployed on the platform, it becomes much easier to conduct routine maintenance such as patch deployment, and new application roll outs to hundreds of desktops at once rather than working with each device separately. The configuration and deployment of new desktops is also now reduced to a matter of minutes.
Another small but not inconsequential savings, that we’ve realized here internally at Datotel, is through the deployment of zero or thin clients for the team to access their virtual desktops. These devices consume as much as 10x less power than the traditional PC.
However, there are draw backs; the end user clearly becomes more dependent upon the networks performance and availability. If the network is impaired or there is not sufficient capacity the end users experience could be affected. There are a number of technologies deployed to minimize this from happening, from redundant networking components to the use of different communications protocols such as PCoIP, to help maximize in real time the desktops performance given the current capacity and state of the network resources.
Further it’s not an all or nothing deal. A mixed deployment model comprised of Virtual Desktops and traditional deployment to meet your exact needs can also work.
With hardware refreshes and upgrades to the Microsoft 7 operating system it might be an opportune time for you to review your deployment model. Which model works best for you?