Posted by: Alan Perlman
Gartner, VDI, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Windows 7, Windows 8
What are the real business benefits of VDI? If you ask most IT professionals they’ll probably tell you lower costs. In that CDW survey I mentioned in an earlier post, 61 percent of respondents said their main driver in considering or implementing client virtualization is to reduce overall costs. But, if cost reductions are to take place in a VDI environment – and that is certainly no guarantee – the reality is that any savings in costs will be much more of a long-term, potential benefit of VDI and will have to take into account a lot of hard-to-quantify costs such as improved business agility, more productive IT workers, more productive office workers, higher availability, reduced downtime, etc., etc., etc.
One could make the case that if you are looking at VDI just to cut costs, perhaps you should look elsewhere. With VDI you will perhaps save money on client hardware – definitely if you go to a thin client model – but you will also likely have to make a significant investment in upgrading your storage, servers and network infrastructures. When you centralize applications, operating systems and user data in the data center and stream them to users – highly demanding users – all around the world, you better make sure the capacity and bandwidth are up to the task. For most organizations this will mean a major up-front investment. The vendors will tell you it’s a wise investment because today’s technology solutions can offer very fast ROI and deliver much greater performance. And they are right: Shifting to a new client model is a perfect time to invest in infrastructure and the ROI they can show you with virtualization is pretty staggering. But it is an investment nonetheless and one that must be accounted for in IT budgets.
One could also make the case that the real value of VDI is in IT retaking control of the client environment. The other major/related benefits are much better management of the client environment and the opportunity to put in place an infrastructure that can ease major transitions and, in a way, shift the way organizations think about their client computing infrastructures. What’s taking place now with Windows 7 migration is a good example. In order to get users up and running on the new operating system, organizations will likely have to replace most of their machines, now or eventually, because each new operating system is designed to obsolete the previous generation – with heftier hardware requirements, more memory, new generations of applications, and all the other stuff IT professionals are all too familiar with. Again, this is generally a good thing: We all benefit from these advances and tomorrow’s data centers will be much more efficient and responsive to business needs than today’s. The foundation for cloud-based services, agile businesses and all of the other buzzwords to describe next-generation IT is being put in place with the latest technology solutions.
But getting there from here is a challenge, right? Not only will current devices need to be replaced, in many instances IT pros will have to do the replacing, physically taking out each machine and putting another one in place, making sure it is properly provisioned, making sure each application is working as it should. Gartner says the migration process should take as long as 18 months. And of course, the process doesn’t end there. Each time a new version of an application is rolled out, IT has to go through the client infrastructure and make sure it works and make sure users are on the current version, with the latest patches. Then, of course, Windows 8 will be right around the corner and IT will get to do it all over again. Say this about the process: It’s good for IT job security.
VDI, of course, offers an alternative. What is that? Stay tuned Friday for our next post.