May the 4th be with you, 2020 style. The story of Star Wars took place in a galaxy far, far away and this year we’ve seen many workers having to do their daily work far, far away from their workplaces and from their colleagues. Many organizations needed to scramble and improvise to implement work from home solutions quickly, while others with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) were able to support remote workers with much less effort.
VDI has been around for over a decade but had never gained wide adoption as organizations chose traditional desktop solutions. In 2020, we not only have seen a continued increase in cybersecurity threats such as ransomware but as more employees are working remotely, more corporate networks are being exposed to less secure home networks through VPN connections.
What makes VDI solutions all the more attractive now is that they can not only serve remote users without a VPN connection, but they can also help keep all of the sensitive corporate data more secure within the walls of the data center. But VDI solutions historically have not been easy to implement and so here are some tips on how to avoid the dark side of VDI.
Don’t over-complicate the infrastructure
Running a lot of virtual desktops will require computing and storage infrastructure that supports virtualization and with plenty of CPU, RAM, storage to satisfy all the user workloads. Traditionally, this would require a cluster of servers, a shared storage device like a SAN or NAS, and hypervisor software that you have to combine together on your own before you can install the VDI components of the solution. Many times these components are all from different vendors, making it more complex to integrate (and later support).
Today, in 2020, you have better options, particularly HCI solutions that already integrate servers, storage, and hypervisors into appliances that can be racked and stacked quickly and scaled out easily when needed. Instead of weeks of wrestling with getting multiple components patched and updated to integrate successfully, with HCI, you can get the infrastructure racked and running VMs in a matter of hours. HCI eliminates much of the complexity that has been associated with VDI over the years.
Understand your users and workload requirements
There are a lot of different types of users out there, as many as types of aliens in the Star Wars galaxy, at least. Not all are going to have the same requirements for CPU, RAM, or storage. Understanding their needs will help you make sure you have the right-sized infrastructure to run all their workloads. For example, a CAD designer will have a greater need for CPU and RAM than a user who spends most of their day looking at spreadsheets.
Solutions like HCI can make it easy to scale out as needed if you miscalculate your initial estimate of user needs, but you will be better off in many ways starting with the right-sized infrastructure to meet your needs. There are a number of ways to analyze workload requirements for a VDI solution and your VDI solution vendor may be the best guide to assisting with assessing your needs.
Understand the components you will need
We’ve mentioned the virtualization infrastructure components but what else does VDI actually require? For a basic VDI solution, a connection broker is required and this is the component that most people associate with VDI. It connects users to virtual desktops using automation to make better use of the underlying infrastructure. But there is another component, profile management, that is equally important if you want users to have a desktop experience similar to using actual desktops.
Giving users the ability to customize their desktops in a way that works best for them (changing the desktop wallpaper to a favorite photo, for example) and having those changes persist will probably require a profile management solution. Some basic profile management can be done with Windows roaming profiles, but to give users the best experience, there are several good profile management solutions to choose from.
Don’t overspend on licensing
VDI solutions are often priced on a per-user license and the licenses costs can vary dramatically. You will likely be making a capital investment on the hardware for the infrastructure and you don’t want to gouge what budget remains with overpriced licenses. Different VDI vendors have different licensing options and prices so it is important to understand your specific user needs and research the options to get the best price. You really may not need the more expensive options to get your users connected to virtual desktops. Shop around.
VDI can be a big investment for some organizations but one that can lead to both better security and higher savings in the future as desktop workloads become easier to maintain and manage. It is important to make the right level of investment for your organization and not make the wrong decisions up front that lead to hidden costs in the future.
Whether you are VDI padawan or a VDI Jedi knight, you likely still have questions about how VDI can best benefit your organization. Our HCI experts at Scale Computing have teamed up with the VDI experts at Leostream to help. If you would like to know more about how our VDI Jedi Masters can help, email us email@example.com or call us at 877-722-5359.