Desktop virtualization infrastructure (VDI) is poised to make a big push into the data center in the coming year, and by all accounts the top vendors have bent over backward to ensure their platforms can take root easily and seamlessly in legacy architectures.
But that doesn't mean the entire process will be smooth sailing.
As Mike Vizard on our CTO Edge site points out, VDI adds a complex new dimension to data center traffic patterns, which means a new data center infrastructure will be needed to avoid compounding the already high latency that VDI exhibits compared with standard PCs. Clearly, an advanced network -- at least 1 GbE by some accounts -- will be in order for even a moderate-sized enterprise, plus additional traffic optimization technology to ensure desktop images and related data can get where it's needed in a reasonable amount of time.
As is usual with a complex networking issue, there are a number of ways to skin this cat. One is layering. Gabe Knuth writing on Brian Madden's blog recently laid out the basics of layering, which essentially means separating the various data environments -- operating system, applications, user data, etc. -- so they can be managed and processed independently. By layering the user environment on top of the base OS, you remove a lot of the management overhead that would otherwise have to accompany every desktop image across the network.
From a management perspective, the ideal environment would consist of only one VDI platform, most likely either Microsoft/Citrix or VMware. But since heterogeneous environments have a way of cropping up despite management's best intentions, it wouldn't be a bad idea to adopt a management system that can accommodate multiple platforms. One of them is the Quest vWorkspace that provides a platform-independent management stack for both virtual application and VDI environments. Soon to be added to the IGEL Technology Universal Desktop firmware, vWorkspace provides a single access point for automated deployment, provisioning and management of Hyper-V, ESX and Parallels Virtuozzo images.
Another way to improve VDI traffic flow is to keep the virtual desktops off the LAN altogether. That's the approach you can take with NComputing's new U170 client. The device plugs into a USB port of a sitting PC, allowing perhaps 20 or more users to ride shotgun on it. The unit costs a fraction of the company's PCI and Ethernet offerings and is said to provide a full desktop experience with no latency, even for video-based applications.
It's important to remember that VDI is only the latest in a long list of recent developments designed to pool enterprise resources as a means to handle increasingly burdensome workloads. While that might take pressure off of individual end points, it puts a great deal of stress on network infrastructure.
The rapid adoption of high-speed technology goes a long way toward ensuring the bandwidth is there when you need it, but it is not a commodity to be squandered. An effective traffic-management regime will help ensure that there is enough room for VDI deployments, as well as anything else that may come along in the near future.