Driving Toward a More Efficient Virtual Desktop

Arthur Cole

It seemed like a slam dunk at the time. Enterprises had taken to server virtualization like ants to a picnic, so it only seemed natural that they would scramble to gain the same benefits for their desktop infrastructure.

The problem, it turns out, is that while server virtualization had a substantial, but manageable, impact on the wider enterprise ecosystem, desktop virtualization pushed it to another level entirely. It soon became clear that few organizations could implement VDI without massive expansions to server, storage and network resources.

That's why the quest remains to devise a workable VDI solution that can be implemented across the board under existing data infrastructure while still providing performance and personalization characteristics at or near the level of standalone desktops and, increasingly, mobile devices.

It is well-known that despite the low client-device costs, capex for VDI can be quite high − sometimes exceeding $1,000 per user. Infrastructure firms like Carousel Industries are focusing on lowering those costs through advanced integration and optimization solutions. The company's latest technology stack features Atlantis ILIO storage optimization that helps cut VMware View deployment costs in half by vastly reducing the amount of storage needed to support large, multi-seat operations. Ultimately, the group aims to convince enterprises that PC refresh budgets can be better spent on VDI infrastructure.

Advanced management systems, while ultimately helping out on the operational side, can also go a long way toward easing deployment issues. Virtual Bridges' VERDE system, for example, pushes processing toward the edge while consolidating management in centralized data infrastructure or in the cloud. This gives enterprises greater visibility into the VDI environment while enhancing response times and user experiences by keeping desktop images and applications close to the client device. At the same time, the system supports bare-metal installs that eliminate the need for pre-existing OSes and manual configuration of internal storage and peripheral drivers.

Meanwhile, Pano Logic has tapped the cloud for its own zero-client virtual desktop environment, a move that cuts the need for local CPUs and operation systems entirely in favor of a completely Web-based computing experience. The system provides a single management platform to deploy, control and secure endpoints and cloud desktops, enabling user access through Google's Chrome browser. The company says that by centralizing desktop controls, enterprises eliminate the possibility of compromises to endpoints in OSes and storage should user devices become lost or stolen. The system is compatible with vSphere/View, ZenServer/XenDesktop and Hyper-V/SCVMM environments.

Mobility, of course, has emerged as one of the key drivers in the resurgence of VDI. Users and enterprises will benefit tremendously from a cohesive work environment in the office and on the road. Nimble Storage has teamed up with VMware to provide a Flash-ready storage architecture for the VMware View Mobile Secure Desktop architecture. The idea is to provide a high-performance, rapid-response data solution that can easily scale up to meet aggressive mobile deployment initiatives. A key operational change from previous architectures is that the system ties desktop environments to user identities rather than devices, enabling more flexible access to data and applications, even during "boot storms" when multiple users attempt to log on simultaneously.

VDI still represents a significant balancing act for enterprises because it sits at the crossroads of both traditional and virtual environments, as well as stationary and mobile architectures. The need to make it work is stronger than ever, but so is the challenge to implement it under budget and without major disruptions to existing infrastructure.

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