If you want to get fancier, you can provide two virtual environments: one locked down and the other more open. Or if you and your users like, you can let them use their own equipment for whatever they want, accessing your official, secure computing environment through your VDI deployment.
An enhancement I like: Some VDI deployments include provisions for "local mode," which manages virtual machines centrally but deploys them so that they execute on the user's CPU. This architecture is desirable for a few reasons:
- It saves your data center budget, because managing configurations centrally takes a whole lot less horsepower than running them centrally. Also, you've already paid for the CPU in the user's computer, so it costs you nothing, too.
- Because your central image and the user's local-mode VM synchronize every time the user reconnects, you can restore the user to a recent stable configuration if something goes wrong, instead of having to restore to factory settings, as it were. This will help your users out at no cost to you.
- The way this solution works, your users will be functional even if they don't have access to your network -- for example, when they're on a flight or in a patrol car or emergency vehicle.
- With the right client software, they can also use their desktop environment on an incompatible device like an iPad -- not in local mode, of course, but you can't have everything. When they log back in with their local-mode device, the work they did on their iPad automatically appears.
What I don't know is whether you can negotiate virtualization-friendly software license agreements. So far as I can tell, you are allowed to run Windows 7 on one physical and one virtual machine at the same time, so long as both are running on the same physical PC. As for applications, they depend on the vendor and probably on the individual software package. It's certainly worth contacting your sales reps to ask the question -- and to let them know that in the era of open source software and cloud-based alternatives, there's only one right answer.
I have to admit to an important caveat on all of this: While people I trust and respect tell me this technology is mature and tested enough for use in production environments, I have no personal hands-on experience with it. If you're interested, you'll have to perform your own due diligence. I'd hate to have one of your patrol cars show up on my front step just because I touted technology that ended up not working as promised.
This story, "Making the case for VDI: Lock them down and open them up," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.