The Essentials Series: VDI or Desktop Virtualization: What's Right for You?

by Greg Shields


Confused about that title?  You might be.  VDI and desktop virtualization aren't necessarily the same thing.  In reality, VDI is but one of many ways in which desktops can be virtualized.

And that's exactly one of the fallacies with our industry's fascination with VDI.  VDI represents an approach to desktop delivery, in much the same way as deploying physical desktops.  The difference with VDI is in the centralization.  VDI deployments centralize desktops in the data center and enable IT to act as a service provider.  From this location, IT gains a set of operational efficiencies over the traditional physical approach.

Yet what many who are considering VDI don't realize is that IT gains some benefits while losing others.  Users also tend to lose in the deal as well.  VDI desktops function well for task workers who consume static application sets.  But when those workers move offline, or outside the brick-and-mortar office, VDI's limitations grow much more clear.  Attempt to push Adobe Flash, video, or voice over the network and users will quickly discover the use cases where VDI doesn't make sense.

This contrast is the subject of this Essentials Series.  In it, you'll understand what desktop virtualization really aims to accomplish, and what other approaches are available that might better work in your situation.  That's not to say that VDI isn't a solution for many use cases; it just isn't the answer for all of them.  In this journey, you'll come to understand one approach specifically — Hybrid Desktop Virtualization — that combines the best of the others to merge IT's centralization desires with users' real-world requirements.


Article 1: Aren't VDI and Desktop Virtualization the Same?

Contrary to what some in the industry would have you believe, VDI is but a subset of desktop virtualization.  In fact, VDI could be more accurately described as "an approach to desktop virtualization".  This first article goes into detail on the important contrasts between the two.  It attempts to level-set the reader towards the use cases where VDI makes sense, and those where it doesn't.

Article 2: A Look at Traditional VDI's Five Big Failures

For too long VDI has been seen as "the next phase in desktop management", which implicitly presumes that it is the panacea for how all desktops will be delivered in the future.  Yet today's thinking is slowly shifting from that belief.  The proof is in the statistics. Many VDI pilots still today remain in pilot phase.  One reason for that stagnation deals with a mismatch between IT's needs and those of its users.  Another reason are the big failures with VDI when it is applied to the use cases where it doesn't fit.

Article 3: Hybrid Desktop Virtualization Aligns IT's Needs with End User Requirements

Users demand the ability to customize their workspace.  They also, often without realizing it, demand local application processing in a specific set of circumstances.  At the same time IT needs centralization in order to succeed with managing a growing environment that only gets more complex over time.  Merging these two requirements is a primary goal of desktop virtualization.  One way to get there is through desktop synchronization, or what is also called hybrid desktop virtualization.  In this architecture, it becomes possible to achieve the goals of IT while still giving users what they want.  The description of HDV's architecture is the topic of this third article.