Don't Fall for the VDI Hype

Remote Desktop Services and XenApp are much more efficient solutions than traditional VDI -- by a large margin.

As a technology journalist, one of the most fun parts of my job is popping the bubbles of conventional wisdom. Right now, one of these large, expanding spheres threatens to root itself in the minds of admins and C-level executives who are inexperienced in the virtualization arena.

So let me grab my needle and pop the bubble: You do not need virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, as it's becoming increasingly known. Don't waste your money and buy what some of the big virtualization vendors are selling. Put those funds back in your pocket.

Now that I've got your attention-and caused heart palpitations among certain vendors-let me qualify that statement. VDI has very good uses and is quite valuable in certain scenarios. What I believe is happening, though, is that it's being sold as the premier solution to problems that can be solved better with other technology. There's so much hype around the idea that VDI is an immediate must-have that it's beginning to take hold in the IT public's consciousness, turning into fact in some quarters.

For most of you this is-to use the technical term-baloney. Certainly, VDI offers a greater ease of management, better security and greater reliability of endpoint devices, all of which are worthy reasons to upgrade your infrastructure. But those benefits are already available in two products that have been around for years and that most of you already have: Terminal Services, renamed Remote Desktop Services, and XenApp, formerly known as Presentation Server.

I first started considering this after reading a blog entry by Brian Madden. Since then, I've talked with many people in the industry and become convinced that, in some cases, companies are spending money they don't need to spend, all because they've gotten starry-eyed over the promise of VDI nirvana.

If that's you, take a deep breath and keep your pen off the bottom line. For starters, Remote Desktop Services and XenApp are much more efficient solutions than traditional VDI-by a large margin. The simple fact is that a typical Remote Desktop Services or XenApp server can accommodate many more users. This is huge, given that greater user density means fewer servers, which means less power used, less cooling and so on.

Another advantage is that Remote Desktop Services and XenApp are able to handle most applications because they've been around for decades. Add to that the fact that, in most cases, no new desktop or laptop refreshes are required, and it's pretty clear that VDI can still be put off for some time.

This isn't a blanket endorsement, however. Some use cases work better for VDI. Security is one. Having a sandboxed environment will be paramount in some scenarios. Being able to work offline is another-and this may end up being a big driver for VDI adoption in time.

Of course, as servers get more powerful, display protocols like Remote Desktop Protocol and Independent Computing Architecture get better, and networks get more efficient, many of the advantages of Remote Desktop Services and XenApp will vanish. But we're not there yet. So when that sales rep starts to discuss VDI with you, make sure you compare your needs with all remote delivery options. A healthy skepticism may save you tons of money and time.

What's your take? Is VDI hype or the right solution at the right time? Tell me at [email protected].

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.


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