VDI is the answer for people who have to do *something* but don't know what that something is

VDI is the future! VDI could be the future?

VDI is the future!

VDI could be the future?

VDI might be the future?

Is VDI the future?

"Hey! We need to do something to future proof our enterprise. Cloud. BYO-something. Compliance. Desktops are dead. Consumerization. New employees. ROI! Tablets... figure it out!"

So... VDI then?


For the consultants out there, how many times have you heard, "Well, we had to do something!" as the answer to the "Why did you do VDI question?"

Everyone knows about all the various benefits of VDI—some real, some manufactured—but I'm honestly starting to believe that the Number 1 reason companies move to VDI is because they felt like they had to do something, and VDI seemed like it a fine enough "something." To be clear, I'm not saying this is the majority of companies since there are a lot of reasons to go to VDI. But if you ask people "Why VDI?" and stack up all the various answers, I feel pretty confident that, "Well, we had to do something!" would be the tallest stack.

Before the comments come in, I can already imagine people saying, "Well, maybe in SMB, but not in the enterprise. The enterprise is too dialed in and sophisticated to waste their energy on a non-reason like that."

Of course my response is "BS! ... Because it happened!"

Seriously, I can name three enterprises that everyone has heard of, right now, that I know for an absolute fact undertook major VDI projects for the sole reason of they didn't know what else to do, and VDI seemed like it was a thing, and really, what can it hurt, so gosh they're going to VDI now. Three enterprises! Household name + shoulder shrug = VDI!

(BTW if anyone reading this has to prove to their boss that they're smart but doesn't know how, might I suggest BriForum 2015 Denver?)

I guess I don't even know if this is a bad thing. I mean it seems bad, but meh, more VDI in the world. I guess they're better off now?

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The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.  In some places I totally agree they jumped on the buzzword and did it to look like they were doing something.  In others there absolutely were business drivers to push virtualization as a whole and technology limitations that made VDI the only usable choice.  I don;t know that I agree it would be the tallest stack however ;)


I don't think VMware and all the other vendors would be continuing to sell their software if the companies in question didn't find some success. I also think -- especially in a large organization that requires IT to jump through lots of hoops to get funding -- that there had to be clear and compelling evidence that embarking on a VDI program would be beneficial.

Are there some companies and IT departments that jump on whatever tech acronym is hot? Sure, but I have a feeling they are few and far between. At least I hope they are!


Karen J. Bannan, commenting on behalf of IDG and VMware.


If we look at the entire computing lifecycle costs of many desktops and even on-demand desktops we'll find that 7/10 cases a physical server or desktop development is not only cheaper and easier to manage than all of the complexity introduced with have virtualization and services to mitigate all of the issues introduced with virtualization middleware.  You're not buying better services and methodology going all virtual when you can utilize more physical devices and get rid of all of the middleware and costs.


Over the past 5 years I have worked with many FTSE 100 companies that have deployed VDI at significant scale. I agree with kbannon that many of these (although not all) will only have done so without a significant business case which justifies any capes/opex outlay. I can't imagine too many CIO's pitching up at their bosses office with a proposal along the lines of "I've got this great idea to spend countless millions on an IT strategy that is totally ground breaking and just soooo sexy. It will derive very little business benefit and will cost us significantly, but I'm sure it will be worth it !!"

With the above in mind I think IT is very similar to Formula 1 motor racing. The big guys with the cash adopt the newest and shiniest technologies because they can. They validate the technology, forcing the ecosystem to iron out any major flaws and gradually reduce the cost base to a point where the technology becomes ubiquitous (we got ABS braking, stability control, adaptive suspension and more recently huge investment in power recovery that will within 5 years be mainstream).

I am already seeing this with VDI. Although not yet ubiquitous, the technology is maturing and significantly reducing in cost to a point where more and more smaller companies are adopting it as a standard.  A well managed traditional desktop may still be cheaper but the intangible benefits and associated cost savings which VDI makes possible are becoming better understood and will, IMHO, tip the balance.

For me, the biggest issue with any desktop transformation project which leads to the choice between VDI (HVD) and HSD, is the overhead of understanding and managing the application issues which accompany such a project. The time, complexity and cost of this phase is typically underestimated.  As VDI (HVD) becomes cheaper, even though HSD will always scale better, VDI (HVD) offers a much simpler platform to migrate to. Again IMHO, there will be a tipping point where it is more strainghtforward, and cost effective (not cheaper) to deploy VDI as standard and skip HSD altogether, especially in smaller companies where managaing HSD introduces its own challenges.


People do VDI to enable better agility for the business, which is not possible with physical distributed PCs.. To do that's it's been too hard and expensive, and the smart minority succeeded while the stupid majority followed F'ed it up.

It's become easier and cheaper over time, but the vast majority of IT people are still conservative idiots who will fail and stick to what they know, slow steady state delivery full of red tape. VDI will keep growing I suspect at high single digit rates, as more people get smarter, idiots retire or get fired and when the same idiots fail at delivering anything new also. It's not that hard it you have an IQ over 100 and less politics.


I never thought I would utter these words: Brian, I totally agree with you.  

People who had to do something, lacked inspiration and options from vendors and had money and time to burn, did VDI. Yes I'm validating what Brian said - big and small enterprises alike.

And fellow commentators - yes many implemented. Yes it was okay for some. But why call that success?

If you define success as spending the money, making technology work, slogging through scalability and operational pains and at the end simply delivering to users, then sure a whole industry got built on this success.

But why should that be the definition of success? Did you make your users happy? Did the CIO really affect the companies business ? Did you solve anything quickly and with real value (ie cost effective and clearly providing value )?  I think few would say yes. And that's about right. Less than 10%.

After years building VDI and arguing with Brian at Citrix CTP sessions, is there a crow feather sticking out of the corner of my mouth? Nope. Cause I'm trying. Innovating. And telling it like it is.

How can we all make something better than VDI?


@ranakanann The fact you even admit to being a CTP explains a lot... Tell me which unicorn you are chasing that you believe is going to change the game in the reality of today's enterprise where people can also actually make money? I'm all ears.

Tell me exactly what you have accomplished to make users lives better that they love so much with status quo over the last few years and reading too many blogs about why VDI sucks? Where have you invested to do anything to make the business more agile? Mobile apps, EMM, WTF exactly that is more than 2% of the market? Exactly my point, f'ing whiners.

These are the hard questions that status quo fan boys never like to address. There are a lot of bad VDI implementations for sure, because stupid people did stupid things and never tied them to business agility use cases and instead the idiots led with cost. As a result it makes sense for those use cases to fail, since the tech was not cheaper or simple. That has become much easier with things like converged infrastructure over the years. Even then, it won't change the age old truth about VDI. Do it for the right use cases that enable agility, cost is secondary and is getting better and in some cases better than status quo. Know that the net present value of sitting on your ass and doing nothing is not zero, as all you do is sustain legacy none agile infrastructure. The world moves on, status quo mind sets need to die and people need to understand that 90% of vendor vision is chasing unicorns. Get practical.



I can't for the life of me understand why you don't think VDI is innovation. Compared with a static desktop which typically ties one person to one place, VDI is a massive improvement, offering similar functionality but with vastly increased flexibility. Is (was) it more costly....yes, is it more complex...yes, but this is nothing to do with innovation.

Back to my F1 example...you wouldn't have ABS braking today if motor racing had not invested millions into a technology which bought them a couple of milliseconds in lap times.  Is that good value for money...it depends on the scale of the win, and in F1 those few milliseconds are worth millions.

Same deal with IT.  Unless someone start the ball rolling, soaks up the initial pain and hones the technology, the innovation which started that rolling ball will disappear without trace.

VDI has spawned an entire ecosystem which is innovating, hardware platforms, virtualisation, remoting protocols, network and storage are just a few of the areas where we would still be in the comparative dark ages without the influence of VDI.

Many of todays technologies were niche and ridiculously expensive at the outset, but by your measure they would have been cast aside as they didn't derive the immediate benefits you seem to believe are essential.

Of course we wouldn't be having this discussion about VDI and the desktop if it wasn't for the Windows OS, which I personally believe is the evil behind most of the problems we have today.  There have been many points in the development of Windows where different decisions could have been made which reduced resource consumption and made application development and management a lot easier. Lack of a serious Windows competitor stifled any competition in this area and leaves us with the host of management problems we have today.


Well, one big advantage of doing VDI for no good reason, and without specific expectations is that you likely won't be disappointed with the results ...


Also, don't buy VDI from anyone not using it him/herself.


@appdetective I should have introduced myself.  I MAKE unicorns.  I'm the former VP of Product Management for the Citrix products known as all things XenApp, XenDesktop and formerly 'project avalon'.  

Here is a little light reading for my deeper thoughts on why VDI is not THE solution and why (@help4ctx) I don't think it is innovation anymore..


You're absolutely right that all the three letter acronyms have also been niche.  They are certainly little stabs at the problem.  And each and every one will continue to be niche.  

But given the content of Brian's article, I have to weigh in that VDI didn't solve an industry problem.  Are there lots of smart people who can make anything work? sure!  Is less than 10% of the need addressed by VDI.  Unequivocally.


"VDI didn't solve an industry problem"

I'd argue that innovation does not need to solve a problem, it can just be an idea that makes people think differently and strive to add to our collective human knowledge.

The US sent men to the moon in '69, did that solve a problem, nope...but it involved innovation on countless fronts...probably more innovation than was seen before or has collectively been seen since.

VDI was/is nothing new,  it just involves a virtual desktop of some kind, a remoting protocol and an endpoint receiving device. All of these things already existed in one shape or form, the innovation was bringing them together and optimising them to deliver a specific use case. For Citrix I'd argue that the real innovation was/is HDX which continues to evolve to deliver across a wider spectrum and with increased performance...but this is not unique to VDI. VDI as a 'vision' continues to drive innovation in all the areas I mentioned previously and just like the moon landing, many of these innovations will go on to serve other purposes in the IT industry for years to come.

I think we digress, the article is not about innovation (my bad!) its about whether VDI is just a fall-back position for those who don't really know what to do. Probably true in many cases, but the 10% use case you state as being addressed by VDI is gradually changing because the tech is at a point now where it can be adopted by a wider spectrum of customers at a more acceptable price point. I'd optimistically say that VDI will reach 50% in the next few years, probably a higher percentage in SMB/SME where the relative simplicity of delivering apps to VDI versus HSD will make it more compelling.


All these comments in favor of VDI have not looked at the bigger problem.  VDI is not an innovation, it is a workaround solution to the legacy problems we have which is the inability to take applications away from a proprietary desktop OS.

Modern apps should be portable, smart, and easy to deploy and manage.

All VDIs do today is deliver apps with a managed OS.  If all apps can be deployed via the cloud via a streaming tech on any OS.  We would only need virtualization of server services and on the application translating layers.  No need for all these VDIs.

Where is the innovation?  Google has already proved that their apps can be ran from the cloud on any OS.