Yesterday I learned about a study that Microsoft released (PDF) that compared the TCO of VDI versus traditional desktops. Their analysis was that with Windows XP SP3, VDI was 9% more expensive overall, and with Windows 7 VDI was 11% more expensive. Now of course it's well known that I believe it's easy to manipulate TCO numbers to show whatever you want (see How to lie with cost models, Dec 2009), so what's really interesting about this study is not that VDI is higher, but that it validates that Microsoft prefers a world of traditional desktops instead of VDI. (Although was anyone really questioning whether that was true? I mean if Microsoft really wanted VDI to take off, would VECD, VDA, and MDOP exist?)
Also interesting was that Microsoft's study confirmed that the money saved on thin clients was more than enough to offset the additional server, storage and networking costs. They also confirmed that VDI environments would have lower desktop support costs. So how did they end up with VDI being more expensive overall? Microsoft blamed the "additional licensing costs associated with virtualization" as well as the "more demanding desktop engineering requirements due to the complexity of designing and managing the VDI environment."
Quantifying these numbers, the Microsoft study showed that "VDI reduces hardware costs by 32% but increases software costs by 64% canceling any savings." At this point it's probably worth mentioning that study reported the additional licensing costs as "Additional licensing costs associated with virtualization, management and desktop software from VMware and Microsoft®." In other words, VDI is more expensive because Microsoft is making it so! (Well, at least that's a contributing factor.)
Of course it's easy to poke fun at this kind of justification, and it certainly makes for a catchy headline, but of course Microsoft software licensing isn't the only cost increase with VDI. The Microsoft study also talks about the diminished user experience with VDI when compared to a well-managed PC. (And those of us who've been doing this for awhile know that's the case -- our "best case" for remoting protocols is that they deliver a user experiences that's just as good as a locally-running desktop. :)
In all seriousness, this Microsoft study is really, really good. It outlines a lot of the harsh realities of VDI today based on polling of 500 organizations in the US with at least 500 VDI users each, and of them the study mentioned that, "Their opinions are based on perceptions of their currently deployed environment and not on benchmarking." This study certainly reflects many of the harsh realities of VDI today, including that while it sounds great in theory, for most people VDI is complex, expensive, and delivers a worse user experience than traditional desktops.
So definitely take a glance at it. The whole study is 36 pages, but it's worth a quick skim. What do you think about it? Does the author bring up valid points, or is Microsoft just trying to defend their traditional desktop dominance?