Happy 5th birthday VDI! (Back then, Citrix & VMware were friends!)

On October 24, 2005, I wrote an article on BrianMadden.com called Providing Desktops to Users: Centralized Virtual Machines or Terminal Server Desktops?

On October 24, 2005, I wrote an article on BrianMadden.com called Providing Desktops to Users: Centralized Virtual Machines or Terminal Server Desktops? It was the first time we addressed the concept of VDI, having been focused on terminal server-based solutions up until that point. At the time we listed the benefits of "centralized virtual machines" as:

  • Better performance.
  • No application compatibility issues.
  • Better / easier security.
  • You can "suspend" individual VMs and then move them from server to server.
  • The clients run the "workstation" version of software.
  • Users have more control over their individual desktop.
  • Users can take their sessions with them when they go offline.
  • Easier backups.

What's interesting looking back is that (a) these same advantages still hold true today, and (b) the confusion of how to do this back then is still largely here today.

Back in 2005, Citrix and VMware were actually friends. Citrix hadn't entered the server virtualization space, and VMware hadn't entered the desktop virtualization space. In 2005 the solutions we talked about were taking a normal copy of Citrix Presentation Server running on terminal server and loading VMware workstation on it. Then we had each user run a separate Windows XP virtual machine in each terminal server session! How crazy was that?!?

The 2005 "one-vm-per-TS-session" solution was an evolution of the Blade PC concept that we'd started talking about a year earlier, and it was six months before VMware created the "VDI alliance" and more than a year before VMware acquired Propero (the technology that would evolve into the products that became VMware View). 

The first time we really used the word "VDI" on BrianMadden.com came almost a year after our initial article, when Ron Oglesby wrote Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI): What's real today, what's not, and what's needed. Four years, 35k views, and 52 comments later, and it's still one of the best articles on the VDI concept, architecture, and challenges ever written. Ron even included a "preachy rant" (his words), which was:

Before I get too far I should note that I believe that VDI is NOT a Citrix replacement in 95% of the use cases, but instead is a solution that fits specific needs and most likely will run side-by-side with terminal servers to fill these needs. VDI is a powerful/useful technology for UNIQUE desktops or apps that will not run on Citrix or on Citrix via an application virtualization software like Softgrid or Citrix’s AIE technology. If you want to host a call center and all the machines/desktops should be identical with little to no modifications possible, buy a terminal server, have it set up correctly, and save the money by using VDI for unique PC deployments or those “no way it runs on Citrix” applications.

It's amazing how true that still is today.

What did you think of VDI in 2005? Has your view changed in the past five years?

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Who invented the term VDI? I always heard that it was VMware's Jerry Chen, the guy who first started formalizing their "Desktops on ESX" offering. Actually he's still there down in Palo Alto.. I should sit down with him with a video camera to hear his story.. I'll bet it's a blast!


I totally agree in most of the terms.

I do not agree about the expensive storage thing. If you use one of the common technologies as PVS or Linked Clones to save admin's time and disk space the SAN storage won't be the pain point in a VDI environment. (if it does scale the right way)

Of course each desktop needs a write cache, but as Brian already mentioned, that hasn't to be placed on a SAN volume.

As per my personal experience a VDI has a lot of benefits if it's designed correctly according to the specific customer requirements. In our environment the main goal was to provide a "local" workstation feeling to users while having a very high amount of standardization on the application and infrastructure level, as well as a maximum of automation for administrators of the VDI itself.

Each of the following technologies we used and I think there is no way to miss only one of those to succeed in a VDI deployment if you have to deploy hundreds or thousands of virtual desktops.

- Powerful Network and Storage

- BOX Virtualization (make your desktop HW virtual)

- OS Streaming / intelligent cloning (use a single golden image wherever possible)

- Application virtualization

- User virtualization

I'd say the hype about VDI is gone, now it's time to mature the products behind this term. VDI is going to take over traditional SBC (TS with XenApp). Server hosted apps will still be needed for some special cases. And you know why?

The admins don't want to deal any more with complex client migration projects having dozens of people running with good shoes from client to client... on the other side the users won't miss their "hey that looks like my desktop at home!"-feeling. So that's where you meet with VDI.

What do you think?


as far as I remember, VDI came from VMWare and was the first product name of the View familly...