Will virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) finally grant IT the control over user desktops that many crave? The previous attempt -- thin clients -- to put the PC genie back in the bottle and give IT administrators full control over users' desktops didn't work out, as the cost was the same as managing regular PCs. Also, thin client technologies such Citrix Metaframe and Microsoft Terminal Services simply were just not up to the task of providing hundreds of users with an acceptable desktop experience.
VDI promises to overcome the weaknesses of thin client computing by combining virtualization with remote computing technologies, so users get their normal desktop experience, while application incompatibilities, lack of customized user experiences, and reliability issues go away.
[ Get the straight scoop from InfoWorld's J. Peter Bruzzese on the three kinds of VDI clients. | Learn what desktop virtualization really means in InfoWorld's special report. | Download InfoWorld's "VDI Deep Dive" PDF report today. ]
But VDI is hardly new, and so far it has not lived up to that potential. Part of its slow uptake is that many IT administrators are a little gun-shy as a result of the thin client experience. After all, no administrator wants to introduce another technology that will not deliver on its promises of lower costs, easier management, and an acceptable end-user computing experience.
VDI does have one distinct advantage: The technology is real, a fact proven by the thousands of deployments that have already occurred. However, many of those pilot programs and deployments have not replaced the users' desktops; instead, most VDI deployments have been used for internal prototyping, testing, and validation chores by IT staffers themselves. That's created a perception among many IT admins that VDI is not ready for prime time.
Is that a mistaken judgment? Here's what IT needs to know about VDI technology today to decide if the promise is real, and if so whether it's worth the cost.
VDI in the real world: No off-the-shelf, simple answer
Determining the viability of VDI is a complicated task, simply because of the number of products available, the multitude of usage scenarios, and the heterogeneous nature of the software and equipment involved to create a VDI deployment.
Regrettably, VDI is not available as an off-the-shelf solution. You'll likely have to integrate several products from several vendors, and each has its own nuances. Further complicating the decision process is VDI's availability in an almost Baskin-Robbins-like variety of flavors.