Everyone is making VDI too hard: it's really just a desktop form factor change

A lot of people throw around phrases like "big deal," "game changing," and "transformational when describing VDI. But in VDI is not a big deal.

A lot of people throw around phrases like "big deal," "game changing," and "transformational when describing VDI. But in VDI is not a big deal. It's not game changing. In fact, VDI is nothing more than a form factor change. It's the same desktop you've always had, just in a different shape. Once you understand this, you'll actually be able to be more successful with VDI.

Why?

Many of the alleged benefits people try to push with VDI aren't actually related to VDI. For example, some people say that using VDI means that many users can share a single master disk image, and that that's easier to manage than a bunch of individual images. And it's true: managing one shared image is easier to manage than a bunch of personal images. (And it's probably even "game changing" for them.) But it's not game changing because it's VDI. The game changer is the locking down the desktop. VDI is only how that desktop is delivered to the user.

Now some might argue that the benefits of VDI that are related to VDI itself--consistent performance, accessibility from anywhere and on any device--are in fact game changing. But those are no different than any new desktop form factor.

Consider this:

Desktop form factor evolution

The desktop PC world began with, well… desktop PCs. They plugged into the wall and you couldn't move them around. That was fine for awhile. Then laptops came out. Laptops had some "game changing" features, like you could take them with you and you didn't have to be plugged into the wall in order to turn them on. Of course laptops had downsides too, like the fact that they were more expensive than desktops while being less powerful.

So we had desktops and laptops. Back then, everyone understood this. They bought desktops for some users and laptops for other users. (Note that they did not run out and buy laptops for everyone--they just bought them where they made sense.)

More importantly, laptops did not change the way that companies managed or delivered Windows. Sure, some companies might have changed the way they delivered Windows at the same time that they transitioned from desktops to laptops (for example, moving from manual installs to automated installs), but changing the Windows deployment method is not because of the laptops--it just happened at the same time.

All of this also applies to VDI. Most people who fail with VDI are those who are making too big of a deal out of it. They're trying to completely re-vamp how they're managing their desktops, including moving users to shared locked-down images and implementing application and user virtualization.

A better way is just to take a step back and catch your breath. VDI is nothing more than a form factor change. Just like laptops provided more [some would say "game changing"] features than desktop computers, VDI desktops provide more features than laptops or desktops. But that doesn't mean that we have to freak out and try to change the world when we go to VDI. (See the related article, "Desktop virtualization is not a 'free pass' for good desktop management.")

So if you want to be successful with VDI, just sprinkle it into your existing environment just like you'd introduce a new laptop model. But don't try to change too much, and certainly don't change the way you're managing Windows just because you have VDI.

 

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I'm not sure I would dismiss shared non-persistent images in quite so cavalier a fashion.  Especially when you LAYER user profiles and apps dynamically.  Moving from a tightly-coupled array of disparate (and often heterogeneous) unique endpoints (assets) to a loosely coupled, late-bound environment is a pretty ENORMOUS game changer. The same  benefits derived from server virt (independence from specific hardware, and he portability and ease of DR/Backup) is a pretty profound difference in operations. Taking in consideration the effort required to support updates, patches and drivers for unique devices ABSOLUTELY crates a profound change in the way end-user devices are deployed, managed and maintained.  


I would agree that if you build your platform out of all persistent VMs, and forgo any sophisticated Profile Management, then yes, you are really just changing form factors.    In my humble opinion, VDI done PROPERLY demands taking advantage of the miracle of non-persistence and abstraction of the user profile from the physical device.  of course, good desktop management practices still need to be maintained.  However, I would argue that maintaining a master image for hundreds (if not thousands) of end-users is pretty monumental. Toss in a dedupe/cache solution like Atlantis iLiO in the mix, and potentially you are giving end-users a superior workspace experience, particularly   if the mail/file server and database resources have immediate proximity to the hosted desktop as opposed to back ends that must traversed high-latency networks.  Granted, net-new companies can go immediately to SaaS cloud-based apps and spare the trouble of implementing VDI altogether.  Any company, though, with more than a decade of history likely has numerous mission critical, multi-tiered apps which will benefit from a well-architected VDI solution until such time as they can retire / port those apps to cloud.


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If you're going to use a shared master image with layered users profiles and apps, then THAT's your game changer. The fact that you're delivering that new layering environment via VDI versus desktop or laptop is immaterial. (And if you just want layering, you don't need VDI to get it. Locking down an image and virtualizing profiles and apps works on desktops too.)


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I agree if you lock down an image, and make use of decoupling via profile management / Application virtualization you have MOST of the benefits of VDI already.  That being said, you'd also have a pretty short HCL and master of SCCM, Altiris or some other such tool to manage and update that environment.  I guess my net-net point is that shared, non-persistent images require a lot less care and feeding than discrete devices, and having the VDI images close to their dependencies  is where true benefits will be derived.  Lacking these, VDI is just moving a problem from one place to another.


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We  see the game changer being what Intel has been referring to as Intelligent Desktop Virtualization or IDV.  Because this approach takes things like the ability to control or lock the desktop (referred to as one of the real game changers in the article above), and then adds back benefits for end users as well as additional benefits for IT.


For all the readers who many not be familiar with IDV, here's a little background. Where VDI centralizes both management and execution, IDV centralizes  management but still takes advantage of local execution.  This results in dramatically lower cost, better performance for users, and it gets rid of a lot complexity that crops up when trying to move a workload that was designed to run locally on your desktop into a remote data center.


There are 3 key tenets of IDV that make it a game changer: (1) centralized management with local execution; (2) intelligent layered images; and (3) integrated physical device management (one of the articles on the Brian Madden site rightly pointed out that VDI does nothing to improve the management of the physical devices – IDV addresses this directly).


Server virtualization was a game change for the data center – these days, people rarely ask if they should run a server workload virtualized or not – they just do it.  This is because type-1 hypervisors have gotten so efficient that it just makes sense to do it –  because you get all the management benefits even if you’re not looking to consolidate workloads.  We see IDV doing the same thing on the desktop side – in the future people will just run everything on a type-1 client hypervisor as a part of a complete IDV solution because it dramatically improves the management, reliability, and security of PCs – while still keeping all the benefits like fast, local performance.


Intel has an overview on IDV with more information (www.intel.com/.../intelligent-desktop-virtualization-overview-paper.html%20.html).


One challenge for the IDV category in the past is that it's gone by a variety of inconsistent names and variations.  But now that there's some consistency forming around the category, we'd love to see some articles about IDV.


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I can certainly understand Intel's interest in continuing to propagate the use of fat clients with chipsets, RAM, powerful CPUs, etc. capable of running both a Type-1 Hypervisor as well as a guest OS (or two or three.)  At the same time, I can understand that market may desire low-power thin clients with nothing more than the capability to run a browser.  Certainly there are use cases for both technologies in the short term.  As wireless broadband becomes ubiquitous and more apps are moved to the Web, I see less demand for either.


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I really hate the term VDI. I don't design 'VDI' solution's I design...well Desktop Infrastructure Solutions... leveraging Virtualization. Ok, so it doesn't really roll off your tongue but my point is ‘VDI’ designs looks something like this.


1) Identify the Use Cases


2) Choose the best method to delivery applications to the users for each use case.


...virtual desktops are in there somewhere


Now if we’re going to go around saying VDI projects are expensive and complicated then let’s make up our mind. If VDI is just a form factor change then actually that’s not so complicated or expensive. What is expensive, is the whole deal...application virtualisation, user virtualisation and tieing it all together. You’d still have to do most of this stuff to layer desktops in the physical world. Take that away and then you’re left with bringing up a hypervisor and some VMs. I sure as heck know I'd rather upgrade 1000 VMs to Windows 8 than replace my physical PCs and roll it out over the network. I do think sometimes we forget the benefits or longer refresh cycles and easy OS upgrades as VDI hasn't been round long enough so see these benefits


So....


VDI is just a form factor changes – agreed if you then agree that VDI is not expensive or complicated.


OR


VDI is the whole layering solution – then sure, it’s pretty expensive and complicated.


Pete


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The game changing benefits are about centrally hosting more and building a more efficient compute resource that is accessible from many more places. That enables new use cases, such as M&A, BCP amongst others.


However to do it with current capabilities in anything more that 1-1 is next to impossible or a compromise with RDS, and will result in more cost or lack of flexibility. So the business benefit needs to out weigh the cost.


Better management to enable the desktop to be more like a service is needed all around, but not required to start and that's where I'll bet most people get stuck. For that you need much better capability in the app and user areas, where both Citrix/VMware/Microsoft have next to nothing or a sub par offerings that do not get anywhere close to what is needed the second you reach any level of complexity. AKA the "simplicity" word is being over used with crap solutions like VDI in a box which is nothing more than HDX to a single user desktop/RDS instance and does nothing with the real management aspects. The desktop is complex and distributed so you need to decide if you want to mange this stuff like a service moving forward which is game changing separately from the VDI benefit of centralization. The reality is that many will have to deal with VDI and other models, just like we always have with desktop and laptop. So management across these will get even more complex....


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