Virtual Cloud Strategy

'VDI Is Just RDS for Idiots'

The headline of our column isn't our quote, but it certainly caused us to fire a few Cheerios out of our noses when reading it one morning. This quote is attributed to Denis Gundarev of Entisys Solutions, a noted community contributor and multiple recipient of the Citrix CTP award.

Gundarev is also one participant in a very public, three-way debate among experts on the efficacy of virtual desktops over traditional server-based computing. One might call it the latest round in our industry's "Great VDI Debate." And this is one in which the very nature of the IT pro could hang in the balance.

The discussion began with an article from Brian Madden, "Is VMware Tricking Customers into Using More Expensive VDI Where RDSH Would Meet Their Needs for a Lower Cost?". Madden asserts, "There are many very legitimate use cases where delivering Windows desktops from the datacenter makes sense... [however], it's my belief that the vast majority of environments based on shared VDI would also work perfectly fine with RDS sessions."

Madden argues some of VMware's justifications for VDI over server-based computing technologies such as RDS and Citrix XenApp are "hogwash." He suggests many IT shops are "... using VDI out of ignorance, or because they love VMware, or because VMware gave them free View licenses with their vSphere purchase."

The comments to Madden's article are as engaging as the article itself. One commenter representing himself as VMware enthusiast Mike Laverick asserts vendor familiarity affects the decision more than technology: "In my experience, existing Citrix customers tend to leverage their existing Citrix relationship..If the customer is a VMware shop, with no previous engagement with Citrix, then they tend to use VMware View."

Other comments deliberate the efficacy of persistent and non-persistent VDI in comparison with RDS, XenApp, Ericom, and former Quest technologies.

The debate might have ended there, if it weren't for the rebuttal by Virtualization Review contributor Elias Khnaser. He takes issue with Madden's assertion that VMware is "tricking customers into using Horizon View instead of RDSH." He states, "There are many solutions out there in many different situations that can get the job done, but there are companies who turn to VDI. And so Brian's anti-VDI rhetoric is getting really old and the industry has gone past it."

He concludes by asking Madden for answers to six technical questions. Those questions demand answers for issues such as non-Windows devices, connected devices and security, cost differences, user density, application isolation, and legacy applications.

This is where the debate transcends the industry. Madden's counter-counter-argument and the comments that follow seem to expose a curious underbelly to the longstanding "Great VDI Debate": that of the changing role of the IT professional.

Gundarev's "VDI is just RDS for idiots" comment might be a touch inflammatory, but his next sentence justifies the statement: "VDI is designed for a new generation of IT personnel that is cheaper and has less technical skills."

Ouch. We sat back.

As virtual strategists, we've repeatedly expressed our opinions of server-based computing's supremacy in a majority of use cases. In agreement with Madden's original assertions, we're similarly concerned with the VDI vendor's propensity to present its solution as the only one to an industry of unwitting and inexperienced customers.

Yet we can't get Gundarev's comment out of our minds. We believe server-based computing is the better approach in most cases. Most applications do work with very little added effort. The cost to implement is less expensive.

If today's businesses don't care or they aren't willing to invest in the marginally more-experienced human talent that keeps server-based computing operational, are VDI shops (perhaps unknowingly) prioritizing technological immediacy over the long-term development of a smarter IT pro? Is there a bigger concern at play?

We don't know. Do you?

About the Authors

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. He’s the President of PowerShell.org, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. Follow Don on Twitter at @ConcentratedDon.

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