Yesterday I had a discussion with some business-type people who weren't terribly technical and who were interested in desktop virtualization as it relates to power savings. They were generally familiar with server virtualization and equated desktop virtualization to server virtualization plus thin clients, which I guess is VDI. So anyway, they asked me point blank, "Why do people use VDI today?"
My first instinct was to go into my whole elevator pitch about the advantages of server-based computing in general (Management, Access, Performance, Security) and then the specific benefits that VDI has over Terminal Server (same OS as desktops, more granular resource management, better app compat)... But before I could form my words, I had a realization that these folks didn't really care about about all these academic reasons—they simply wanted to know why real companies were using VDI today. (Not that the academic reasons aren't true.)
I shared the following three real-world reasons with them:
Same benefits of Terminal Server / SBC, without the hassle
I've made the argument before that most of today's VDI environments could probably run fine on Terminal Server, but that's not the point. (Remember, our point today is to talk about why people are using VDI, and there are certainly a lot of people out there who want the remote computing advantages without the hassle of Terminal Server.) And sure, we could talk about Terminal Server having a better user density, but the reality today is that a lot of people don't care. To them it's not worth learning a whole new OS (Terminal Server) just to save on some density.
So this means that we've got people using VDI for regulatory compliance, classrooms, and ease of image management. And the reality today is that these people want datacenter hosted desktops without the "hassle" of Terminal Server, and for them, VDI is the answer.
Virtualization spillover from servers
I can write all I want about how I wish that today's VDI deployments were being designed by the old-school desktop people instead of server virtualization folks who are looking for more things to virtualize. The the reality today—like it or not—is that some people are using VDI simply because it has "V" in the name. In other words, they like the benefits they got with server virtualization and they want to extend that to desktops, irrespective of the fact that desktop virtualization and server virtualization are not the same thing.
Flexibility for DR / Pandemic
I guess this is another benefit that also applies to TS-based solutions, but I know for sure of several companies that have built out VDI environments to enable employees to continue working in disaster scenarios. And some of these were even used a few months ago during that whole H1N1 scare where people were saying, "If you're coughing, don't come into work." VDI allowed those workers to connect from home.
What do you think?
Frankly there's a lot of hogwash in this article. Some of these reasons are misguided and/or things I don't agree with. But when looking at the real world today in January 2010, I think these reasons are among the most common as to why customers are using VDI. What do you think? Did I miss anything? What are the real reasons you or your customers are using VDI today?