Tackling the VDI/Storage Dilemma

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

When Is It Right for a Business to Consider Desktop Virtualization?

Tips for determining whether desktop virtualization is right for your business.

It's been known for some time that virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a double-edged sword. The savings you get from simplifying your PC infrastructure are diminished by the increased storage and server capacity needed to support multiple virtual images.

There is an argument to be made that, if done correctly, the benefits of VDI outweigh these costs. As InformationWeek's Kevin Casey showed this week, small firms like Infinity Sales Group, a DISH Network dealer, saw nearly a six-fold increase in employees over the past two years but actually managed to cut desktop support staff by 75 percent due to virtual desktop technology.

That kind of math may or may not work at other businesses, but the fact remains that increased infrastructure costs persist as the single biggest detriment to VDI deployment across the enterprise industry. Small wonder, then, that the VDI community has set a laser focus on bringing those costs down to negligible or even non-existent levels.

Citrix, for example, just finalized the acquisition of RingCube, which has developed a method that greatly reduces the burden on centralized storage systems. Under the company's VDesk system, XenDesktop users will now have access to a single desktop image rather than multiple customized versions that currently eat up vast chunks of storage capacity. At the same time, they retain a personalized VDisk that holds the application links and settings they've grown accustomed to. This essentially provides the centralization that enterprises need while preserving the flexibility and customization that users want.

Other firms are teaming up with leading storage providers to at least simplify the storage provisioning process. Liquidware Labs recently joined NetApp's Partner Alliance Program in an effort to more closely tailor storage requirements with enterprises' VDI needs. The program has resulted in customized reports and data analysis tools that provides granular views of a given VDI deployment's impact on existing infrastructure, allowing Liquidware to better estimate storage capacities based on actual load patterns.

Still others are devising their own methods to ensure a proper balance between desktop and centralized infrastructure while ensuring adequate centralization and customization. Wanova, for instance, just patented the data synchronization module of its Mirage platform, which handles the coordination between the centrally located desktop image and users' primary PC copies. The system allows Wanova to build a layered architecture that provides access to live applications and appropriate drivers without overloading server, network and storage resources.

Predictions of a VDI breakthrough have been a regular component of many a year-end technology outlook for some time now. What seems clear, however, is that the technology has enough legs to warrant further research and development to overcome most or all of the major complaints. In that sense, it really is only a matter of time before VDI becomes a standard feature in the enterprise.

Maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon.

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