If you want VDI to be more reliable *and* cheaper than traditional desktops, you will fail!

Today's article is along the same lines as something I wrote last year about how the hidden "SLA bump" can kill your VDI project. The idea came from twitter.

Today's article is along the same lines as something I wrote last year about how the hidden "SLA bump" can kill your VDI project. The idea came from twitter. Someone asked me about home VDI solutions. He said he was looking for a small VDI solution for 2-3 thin clients, but that at that scale it's cheaper to buy 2-3 PCs. So told him to screw VDI and to just buy the 2-3 PCs. But then he said he wanted the better management of VDI. Ok, so then he should buy the VDI. What's the problem? Sure, the VDI is more expensive, but that's because IT HAS MORE FEATURES.

It occurred to me that this is one of the hang-ups that people have with VDI in general today. Everyone talks about how they want to use VDI to make desktops more reliable and to add new features such as the ability to work from anywhere. But then when it comes to pricing, they say, "Wait.. this VDI thing is going to be more expensive?" Um, yeah dude.. you're adding more features. Why wouldn't it be more expensive?

If you want to build a VDI solution that's cheaper than a traditional PC, we can do that. (It's called NComputing.) But don't expect any fancy-pants new features. We can give you the same features today for less money than you paid to buy your current solution three years ago. No problem. But more features are going to cost more money.

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Well said Brian. I will later comment on your article about going VDI for a couple months as I have been doing exactly that for the past 4-6 weeks now. As I am doing this from my home I do think my environment is probably what this guy is looking for in terms of hardware/costs/setup.

If you do need to get thin clients or an endpoint hardware of some sort, yes, it will be more expensive. If you can (as I did) reuse existing hardware then it will be cheaper (hardware wise). Problem is licensing, for the home user, will definitely be more expensive as they will probably need to get licenses from Microsoft what the regular PC comes with and with no recurring costs.

I went VDI (with no regrets) for the flexibility of having access to my Win7 desktop from my MacBook, iPad, MacPro, Wyse XPe thin client, PCs, etc. And I will go one step further. So far after almost two months I had no need whatsoever for offline access to my VM. That does not mean I did not have to work when there was no connections available. I did. But the local OS/Apps on the devices I was on were enough and as I am using DropBox as my 'Roaming Profile', the data I need access to is always with me locally.

I guess a great article would be how to setup your own VDI environment on the cheap, for the masses and SMBs out there. I am sure tons of people would love to see more details on the topic.




What about Xendesktop Express, couldn't you run it for free for up to 10 desktop?

My wife is eyeballing an ipad for a while but I told her about the Flash limitation (Motorola Xoom is an option but that is off the topic)..  I was going to combat that issue with Xendesktop Express..  Need Win7 VDA license though, but other than that did I miss something? Can I repurpose Win7 traditional PC license to cover VDI.  What other license do I need.  Microsoft's VDI licensing is the confusing part for me. I am familiar with the yearly VDA license model but is there a workaround/loophole..


I think the crowd wanting VDI to be cheaper AND have more features is the same crowd that had so much success with server virtualization.  With server virtualization things became cheaper and you added more features (DR became easier, the ability to snapshot, etc).  I think many people have yet to realize that VDI is a different animal than server virtualization.


NComputing for SMB really? This ignores understanding what you are trying to do first. You could just use RDP with Remote Desktop Server for really cheap. What about external access and devices? That is cheaper that a PC if you just recycle your existing clients not doubt.

Why not instead try something like Kaviza with HDX if you want a desktop operating system. Instead of wasting time on that why not just just XA which is cheaper than a PC in Windows 7 UI mode, if you are are largely knowledge workers and get's you around licenses for Windows 7. If you need full personalization then try XA with 1-1 and let people do what they need. On a virtualized sever say 4 core, you can easily give each user their own core and provide a great experience and choose from many types of endpoints. You also need to understand where your apps are. If they are in the data center, PC's and offline really means little to you. In addition where is your data, how secure does it need to be etc. You could consider a personalization vendor like Appsense etc to make management smoother, but I doubt you will need it unless you expect to be in a mixed mode environment plus there is the cost.

The point I am trying to make is just because you are small, I doubt the requirements conversation for the basics is much different from the complex. With that in mind, I think you can easily achieve cheaper than a PC if you r are knowledge worker, and if you need more then there are options with RDS to help get around licensing. Even if you require a desktop OS, you can still do it on the cheap.

As for reliable, in all depends on how you build it. I'll debate those who think a PC is reliable given the SMB probably has a mess allowing things like local admin rights with security holes everywhere.


@speakvirtual well stated. Anybody who thinks desktop virtualization is the same as server virtualization is clueless, which I bet is the majority of the VIEW install base which has next to zero production installs.


+1 for @speakvirtual well stated. I never actually thought about that as the reason, but I think you nailed it! Can I add your explanation to my speeches? :)


@totie.bash XD Express from what I understand is only free for 30 days. It's also pointless if all you need is a simple way to just provide a peer to peer connection via HDX. This 1-1 connection (HDX connect) should be made available for free. Failing that RDP directly to a desktop in a data center assuming you have basic requirements. No need to have a broker etc if all you need to know is you your hostname. Just give your users an RDP files with the host name embedded if needed.


No problem, Brian.  Just so long as I get all the glory!  :)


These were the options 10-15 years ago:

1. Terminal services (SBC)

2. Citrix MF / PS

3. AS400 / Digital /Reflections, etc.

4. Hosted desktops with remote control

Out of the above options number 4 was truly the cheapest for small businesses and some power users. I still think it continues to be that way.

After that TS/CTXS, when combined, offered greater scalability with performance in mind.

Last, but not least (and in honor of Ken Olson, RIP) the re-centralisation of distributed computing (i.e. mainframes) for legacy purposes.

I am sure that most readers can draw the parallels between technology changes over time.

Here's a different question: What is the total cost that each company is willing to spend "per employee" to enable remote access?



I will call you out about XD5 Express with my limited *published* information.


"Express. A free download to help IT professionals get started with VDI, which supports up to 10 users."

Further to this, if it was a 30-day trial it would be called an evaluation, not an edition.

XD5 has a 90-day evaluation under the Enterprise Edition. All of this is pretty similar to what was offered with XD4 editions/evals.

So, you can use XD5 Express for 10 named users forever.

Also, in regards to VDA, this is where it gets great for at home implementors IMO.

VDA offers one benefit in this area:

"Rights for the primary user to access corporate VDI desktops from non-corporate PCs, such as internet cafes and home PCs."


So if you have a non-corporate device, iPad, Home computer, etc. you are exempted from having to pay VDA.

I doubt MS intented it this way, I think they don't really know what to do there.

VDA is a great catalyst for organizations to accept the BYO model since they don't have to pay for VDA licenses. In turn, at home implementors have the same benefit for the same reason.


What’s up with this “.../VDI is more expensive, but that's because IT HAS MORE FEATURES” type of reasoning.

For what it’s worth let’s add ‘more…agile, flexible, compatible and conforming”, never mind the hammering of a square to a triangle spot etc.

When comparing FEATURES, one wonders exactly what features? Compared to what?  PC computing, as customary, gets wing-cut  and force-fitted where no one ever would do so in any imagination of real life scenarios.

Certainly, by any standard, Windows computing is a mix of different approaches where it just so happens that VDI is the most niche and rare among them all.

Old-skool remoting away and/or providing remote access to apps when it made sense via RDS (Citrix:ing them as the case usually was) in many ways provided plain sense and easy justification.

Then, of course, we had all these “Thin Client, look ma, I’m going to do your whole desktop and everything” type of things.  I take pride in never endorsing these.

Then what now? Do we have the reformed terminal server all-or-nothing type of guys now having dancing the VDI fandango all in our face?

I digress. IMO let’s by all means use and mix tech – but so in a realistic and sensible way.


@Icelus I think you misunderstand the VDA license. You are not exempt from it because you use a non-corporate device, rather if you are the primary user of a device with a VDA license then you get roaming use rights, the specific terms of which I have pasted below from the Microsoft Product Usage rights document. So the organisation still has to buy at least one VDA license for each user in order to get these rights.

Also importantly, roaming use rights don't apply if you are on the corporate premises, so if you use both an iPad and a PC while you are at work to access your VDI desktop then that's two VDA licenses required even if it is a personally-owned iPad.

Personally, I think Microsoft has to move to per-user licensing as an option for all of their products because the old ways are making less and less sense the way that technology is progressing.

Here are the full terms and conditions that are applicable:

d) Roaming Use Rights.   Except as provided below, the single primary user of the Windows VDA licensed device or Windows licensed device with active Software Assurance coverage (work device) may:

• at any one time remotely access one or more of the permitted instances running on your servers (e.g., in your datacenter) from a qualifying third party device1, and

• at any one time run one instance of the software in a virtual OSE on a qualifying third party device1 .

A “qualifying third party device” is a device that is not controlled, directly or indirectly, by you or your affiliates (e.g., a third party’s public kiosk).

When the primary user is on your or your affiliates’ premises, Roaming Use Rights are not applicable.



Thanks for the correction, what you are saying makes sense.


@icelus Your right, i go confused by the grace period of 30 days comments on Laura's blog assuming the license file if for fee. So pretty cool, and a good move. Still I don't think this should be confused with the need for HDX Connect.



In regards to HDX Connect, this might not meet your needs exactly but XD5 does offer High Availability of the Virtual Desktop Agent.

"If all controllers in a XenDesktop site fail, you can configure the Virtual Desktop Agent to operate in high availability mode so that users can continue to access and use their desktops. In high availability mode, the Virtual Desktop Agent will accept direct ICA connections from users, rather than connections brokered by the controller."



Brian, I think you should have told him 'Kaviza'.  Here's why.  Get a 8GB laptop (with a decent 2-core processor) and 128GB SSD.  Total cost for us was around $1000 or $1100 or some such.  We run the free XenServer and Kaviza.  With it you can run 2 to 3 Win7 desktops (or more XP desktops since they require less RAM and I/O).  One of our folks uses this at home to have a PC in every room.  If you need more or want HA, just add another identical laptop and now you have a grid.  You can run the desktops in "persistent" mode if you like so that you get the same desktop every time and you can make whatever changes to your images.  With this you get multiple PCs that cost less than a PC, you can access it via iPads, iPhones, thin clients, old PCs and you can access it from anywhere.  By the way, our HDX gateway is in early trials already.  


@Icelus, only partially. I still want my help desk to HDX connect to a machines to ensure it works. I also want to build new types of scenarios (cloud like stuff) that let's be just wrap HDX as I see fit. But I agree a good step forward from Citrix that will many implementations.