Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Old Wine in New Bottles?!

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Old Wine in New Bottles?!Is virtual desktop infrastructure old wine in new bottles?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Old Wine in New Bottles?!

Is virtual desktop infrastructure old wine in new bottles?! Will this still be the case in 2010?
If there is just one buzzword in the IT industry, then it is “virtualization.” Nowadays we virtualize the network, storage, hardware, desktops and applications. Desktop or workspace virtualization is an application that is gaining in importance.
This form of virtualization can, in essence, be divided into to parts: “server-hosted” and “client-side.” The type of desktop virtualization that is receiving the most attention is “server-hosted.”
More and more organizations are asking themselves whether they must choose between Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI), Server-Based Computing (SBC) or local desktops. Questions that arise include: Will VDI replace the SBC concept? What are the pros and cons of VDI? What role do application virtualization and OS streaming play in the overall concept?

In order to understand the various solutions, the interplay of different technologies and the application thereof, it is important to have a good overview of the application and desktop delivery solutions. To get an overall picture of this subject, reading the article “Understanding all the application- and desktop delivery solutions in 30 minutes” is highly recommended.

  • In meetings we have with organizations regarding the wishes, functions, pros and cons and use of VDI, we have noticed that a large part of the discussion often has a  so-called “back to the future part II” content.  When “in the past” Microsoft NT 4.0 Terminal Services and Citrix Metaframe formed the basis for Server-Based Computing, the following questions were raised to one degree or another:
    There are users who have to work offline. How will we enable this?
  • Some of the applications are resource-intensive. How can I size my central platform?
  • How will we handle graphically heavy and multimedia applications?
  • How much bandwidth do I need per user?
  • How can we offer users the best possible user experience, even if the latency is higher?
  • Users want to use various devices in their “own” environment. What are the (im)possibilities for this?
  • Users want to have freedom at their workstations; the ICT department does not want to facilitate this.
  • Is the central desktop delivery platform scalable?

VDI has certain advantages compared to Server-Based Computing. Many customers have already experienced these advantages in practice. Indeed, there are various points of special interest when comparing VDI with SBC. The pros and cons of VDI were mentioned earlier, but this article is essentially about the fact that a large part of the points of special interest in the SBC concept also applies to the VDI solution. Some challenges in the current VDI and SBC concept are as follows:

  • How will we offer graphically heavy, multimedia and resource-intensive applications from the data centre on the central desktop? 
  • How will we handle the fact that users want to get a laptop while this laptop also has to be used for working offline? 
  • Users want to be able to download and install software at their workstations. Users expect that the business-critical applications remain operational.
  • Who from ICT management is responsible for the virtual workstation?
  • Can the VDI environment also be used and managed in large environments?
  •  ..

Make use of the experiences acquired in various Server-Based Computing projects when defining and implementing project phases. How so “old wine in new bottles”?!

Question: What will the virtual workstation look like in 2010?
It is not necessary to gaze into a glass ball to get a good idea of the workstation in 2010. If you look at the needs of customers and the provision of suppliers in the application and desktop delivery area, you could say that  1+1=2010.

  1. Offering graphically heavy, multimedia and unified communications applications is no longer a challenge.
    By using new or optimized protocols such as Microsoft Calista, SPICE, Net2Display, Teradici, RGS and Citrix ICA+, offering the above-mentioned applications from the data centre is no longer a challenge. Gigabits to the workstation is thus not a luxury, but a normal thing.
  2. The central workstation offered by VDI or SBC can use hardware independently, offline and offsite. Local resources are used in their maximum capacity for this execution – “bare metal,” in other words, whereby the user experience is optimal.
    Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), Citrix “Xen client” hypervisor and VMware “View” vClient will facilitate these functions.
  3. OS streaming technology is an important link in manageably offering operating systems for virtual and physical desktops where one can work both offline as well as online.
    Citrix Provisioning Server, VHDsoft Xtreaming Technology and VMware Scalable Virtual Image will facilitate these functions.
  4. In a tightly managed workstation environment, an end-user can install and use independent applications without business-critical applications being hindered in any way.
    Application virtualization will be further developed, making this functionality possible. Both end-users and ICT administrators are happy.

The ideal virtual workstation in 2010 will consist of a combination of desktop virtualization, OS streaming, application virtualization and hypervisor technology. A part of this solution is already available and usable today.
Further development and expansion of these solutions will ensure that the (virtual) workstation in 2010 really will be new wine in new bottles!

With regards,

Ruben Spruijt

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You put VMware SVI in the OS streaming camp but I don't think it is. The online/offline part of the VMware vision is part of VDM.
Sorry, just as some additional info, for the intial release of offline in VDM 3.0 there is no support for View Composer (SVI). Source, VMworld session on offline VDI.

Hi Rodos, thanks for your remark. I think from technical point of view SVI isn't the same as Citrix PVS or other OS streaming solutions. from functional point of view I combined these type of solutions just to make sure the reader understand the logic behind it.


Hi Ruben,

Would you happen to know if there is a free trial download of the Microsoft Calista software?


 Laura Armstrong, desktopsites Inc.


If and when Microsoft decides to roll out the technologies they acquired from Calista, it will likely be part of the MDOP rather than a general release - just my guess...


I attended VMworld 2008 and ever since I've been mulling over the whole SBC vs VDI debate.

In my mind, an SBC platform like Xenapp continues to make the most sense as it involves the least amount of overhead RE ESX host hardware, SAN resources, licensing, etc. In each of these areas, VDI incurs additional and significant costs in comparison to SBC.

The big sticking points for SBC deployments have always been application compatability issues, end user experience (performance), user autonomy, and offline access.

The software available now to mitigate application compatability issues is getting more mature and robust (i.e. Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5, InstallFree, VMware Thinstall, etc), diminishing the need for siloing. Furthermore, these technologies work equally well on either SBC or VDI platforms. When you think about it, seperation of applications from the OS means that the job of the OS is diminished to providing a user interface and to talking to the virtual hardware - a role that some day a web browser could fill. For now, whether the OS instance is Windows XP/Vista or Windows Server 2003/2008 shouldn't matter much - the goal should be to run the fewest OS instances possible and keep the TCO as low as possible.

Regarding performance, virtualizing SBC servers allows architects to "right size" SBC VMs to better fit the workload - scaling out virtually rather than scaling up (i.e. huge 64-bit CPS servers). Virtualization benefits like cloning, VMotion, HA, DRS, etc benefit SBC VMs just as they do VDI VMs. Also, technologies like preferential load balancing are a step in the right direction for providing "power user" capabilities for certain users within a CPS/Xenapp VM.

VDI somewhat mitigates the user autonomy issues, but giving users full administrative control and unfettered access to their VDI instance is really just a perpetuation of the desktop headaches of the past. Granted, SBC environments tend to be more restrictive, but that's usually a good thing :-). For the small percentage of users that actually NEED more autonomy (i.e. developers), client-side VDI with automatic syncing back to the data center makes sense.

Which leaves the issue of offline access. Here is where a hybrid approach would seem to make the most sense...

What if the majority of users accessed their desktops via a virtualized SBC platform for day to day operations (which is still remotely accessible), yet a small percentage of road warrior users had the capability to check out a locked down, generic offline VDI instance? The VDI instance would contain all of the user's personal data on a seperate virtual disk, another virtual disk with a generic OS installed, and cached copies of virtualized apps. By abstracting and seperating applications, the OS, and the underlying hardware, user data becomes truly portable across platforms - whether an SBC platform in the data center or an offline VDI platform as needed.

VDI then becomes a special case enabling technology for power users who need offline access or a high degree of autonomy on a local VDI instance. SBC plays the role of the core data center delivery platform for the rest of the user base.


Thanks Alan. That was my thought but just wanted to throw it out there in case I may be missing it somewhere.

Thanks again.



Hi Alan,

I would absolutely have to agree with you on your comments re:'VDI vs Terminal Services, Citrix, and SBC in general - the argument rages on...' Being a software development company in Calgary, Alberta Canada we offer a virtual access manager advanced connection broker called Konect. Our primary business focus targets the small to mid size market space. With over 150+ resellers, your message (and by the way, a very well stated positioning summary) is and has continually been echoed back to desktopsites from our reseller channel on a continual basis. With secure availability of applications, lower TCO ***, location and workstation independent application access (remotely / LAN / WAN), end user simplicity and ease of use, reduced IT headaches for support and maintenance, are all critical factors when a decision is being made relative to a remote access / application delivery / centralizing business data and applications solution for SMBs. As you stated '... In each of these areas, VDI incurs additional and significant costs in comparison to SBC.' -  a cost in which a VAST majority of IT consultants are finding difficult to justify to their clients. Initial and ongoing support costs are paramount for SMBs and becomes a significant barrier of entry to move forward. Yes, I do agree there are special circumstances where VDIs may be required (as you had provided an example of i.e. developers). However, with the majority of business cases, SBC is absolutely sufficient to meet their business needs. With this in mind, desktopsites is soon to release our next advanced connection broker software offering which will allow IT administrators to centrally manage and broker out applications (both physical and virtual), virtual desktops (VDIs), and files and data from a centrally managed infrastructure for both physical and virtual server environments. Thus, taking care of both business case scenarios (SBC or VDI delivery) in one solution offering. The connection broker will be tightly integrated into Microsoft’s Virtual Machine Manager and Powershell. The product release is slated for the latter part of October 2008. Food for thought: Could VMware be overlooking a large SMB market opportunity by not offering a SBC solution (over and above baseline Microsoft TS) as part of their product portfolio in conjunction with Virtualization offerings? Wouldn’t a non-intrusive migration path for many clients (SBC to gradual Virtualization adoption & /or mix and match) make more business sense? Laura Armstrong, VP desktopsites Inc.

Personally I don't think so!

It would be smart from Microsoft to add the Calista Technology into the TS/VDI platform or incorporate it in the core-OS platform instead of creating a separate solution which is available within MDOP..


Hi Ruben,

That would be great if this is the case and makes absolute sense!



Great Post, but it is coming from the angle that money is no object - how many bits of infrsstructure/software do you need to stick/glue together to have a fully working solution that is driven by user performance?  Espsically in all our economic states, hard to swallow the cost of putting this all together - users in marketting/advertising depts for example?