Getting VDI Right

Michael Vizard

By now many IT organizations testing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) have figured out that despite the promise of cost reduction, most VDI implementations require significant IT infrastructure upgrades to run effectively.

This is because VDI puts a lot of pressure on network bandwidth as well as storage and memory. Most existing servers are not up to the task of handing these requirements, so many IT organizations that have embraced VDI are looking at server upgrades. Otherwise, users will soon rebel and the whole VDI test project will have all been for naught.

None of this is lost on Cisco and Citrix, which today announced an alliance to cooperate in selling Citrix desktop virtualization software with Cisco's Unified Computing System. This makes a lot of sense, says Jackie Ross, vice president of Cisco's server and virtualization business unit, because one of the primary advantages of Cisco UCS is the extended memory architecture that makes 384 GB of total memory available to VDI applications.

Cisco has a similar alliance in place with VMware, so don't be surprised if the company partners with every desktop virtualization partner that can help make the case for VDI. Of course, a number of approaches to desktop virtualization that Citrix supports are not as IT infrastructure intensive as VDI. And many of these are gaining traction because IT organizations don't have the capital on hand to buy new servers no matter how much money they might save on desktops down the road.

There are also other approaches to boosting VDI performance, ranging from adding new storage systems that come with solid-state disks to new solid-state memory appliances. But no matter how you cut it, there is no free VDI lunch. Like most things in IT, you need to spend money to save money. The question is, what's your organization's current level of budget tolerance for forklift server upgrades? At the moment, the answer heard most often is precious little. So when it comes to VDI, proceed with caution.

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