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A Complete Guide to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
Posted on May 26, 2020 9:22 pm

Looking to involve yourself in the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)?

Not sure where to start? No need to look elsewhere – this is the place for you to learn.

In this article, we will cover what exactly VDI is, how it works, and who needs it. Keep reading to get a comprehensive overview of VDI.

What Is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

VDI is a term, referring to the use of virtual machines to manage virtual desktops. VDI provides a centralized server to host desktop environments and helps deploy them to an end-user upon request.

Within a VDI, a hypervisor separates servers into VMs, which host the virtual desktops, which are then accessed remotely by a user from any device. A user can access the virtual desktops from any location, and all of the processing occurs on the host server. A user will connect to a desktop instance via a connection broker, usually as a software gateway, which acts as the intermediary between the server and the user.

VDI comes in two forms: persistent and non-persistent. Each type has its own benefits:

Persistent VDI

A user will connect to the same desktop each time, and is able to personalize the environment to their own needs, as the changes are saved even after disconnection. 

Meaning, a desktop within a persistent VDI environment will behave exactly like a personal desktop at home.

Non-Persistent VDI

A user will connect to a generic desktop, and no changes will be saved. It is cheaper, as no maintenance of customized settings is needed.

A non-persistent VDI is often seen in organizations that many task workers, or employees who perform repetitive tasks without the need for personalization.

What Are the Benefits of VDI?

So what’s the real point of moving an actual computer to a remote location? Or using a remote environment in the first place?

Well, the benefits are plentiful – so let’s start there.

Data Cannot Be Lost

VDI has been developed to help control and manage desktop environments. A quality VDI provider should include continuous backup of the environment for the users. 

This means if you ever deleted a file on accident – it can be restored. Or if you lose the laptop, you can still access the data and applications because its all in the data center.

Remote Access

VDI provides access to applications and data stored on the network that is accessible from anywhere. You can work on a document from the office, go for lunch at home, and continue working on it as if you never left. 

You will see the changes as they are, even though you are have changed locations.

Minimal Management

IT knows that desktop management is tedious. Purchase desktops, install them, upgrade them, add resources, troubleshoot, et.c 

With a virtual desktop in VDI – all you have to manage physically is a thin client, which is designed for low maintenance.

Roll-Back

Traditional desktops succumb to malware and viruses. With a VDI solution, this is less of an issue – because a desktop can be restored before it has been infected.

Standardize

How often have IT seen the issue of running an app on one computer, but it not working on another? 

VDI allows for application standardization, which allows all users to access desktops that are technically identical.

Resource Management

If a user needs more memory or RAM, IT would have to take apart the computer and install it. With VDI, servers can be upgraded with a variety of resource addons within minutes.

Cheap On-Boarding

When new employees join the company, there is no need to assign hardware. A new work environment can be provisioned within several minutes.

Self-Resetting 

This is optional and can allow a desktop to self-reset after temporary access. For instance, a user walks into class to use a desktop temporarily. Ideally, the computer will reset back to the proper configuration, in case any of the data has been left, custom software installed or anything else is malicious.

The VDI User Experience

The most important consideration of a VDI desktop solution is to know how it will affect the user experience. Many people overlook the importance of user experience, as they are overwhelmingly excited about the features of a product. 

What we really want to know is how does the VDI experience differ from the experience on a traditional desktop. If a user is in a remote area with a poor connection, the experience will suffer. VDI performs best under ideal conditions, such as excellent internet, low latency, server hardware, and high bandwidth.

Latency

Anything that is remote is meant to experience some sort of latency. Latency is the time it takes for something you do on your physical device to reflect on a screen. Because a VDI is natively remote, if you press a button on your laptop – it first has to send a command to the server to process it, and then the server sends back the visual update to the screen.

VDI will have greater latency than a regular desktop. But because internet speeds are so good now, the latency is practically negligible to users. So there’s nothing to complain about. 

Visual Refresh

Refresh rate. If you’re watching a video on the system, you are likely not to experience enough refresh rate coming from the server. This can be counteracted with a VDI that possess a capable GPU, but the refresh rate issue will still be there in some minimal form.

Audio

The sound is choppier. Audio on a VDI has to be transferred from the local computer to the server hosting the desktop, and then back to the people on the ned of the line. Then back to the server, which then goes back to the user local computer. That is a lot of hopping around and probably causes packet loss. 

Workflow

The workflow might be the same or even better. This means accessing files, editing them, browsing, and emails are practically identical in performance. And even might be better, because the environment is more organized and has less clutter. 

This is because a VDI is often used just for work, as a user might not be allowed to install custom software.

How Does VDI Work?

When a user logs in on their virtual desktop using the client software, the request has to be accepted by a connection broker after authentication has been performed. The broker will analyze the request, and send the user to the desktop in the pool of virtual environments. 

The hypervisor on the servers will create several VMs, which will host the desktop. A hypervisor has a high availability feature that allows the combination of resources from various servers and virtual desktops to migrate onto another server.

An admin can turn off a virtual desktop when it’s not in use. They can help with server capacity management. For example, a server with 500 GB ram – can be used to create 500 virtual desktops with a 1 GB ram each. Assuming that they don’t all use the desktops at the same time.

The image from the desktop is mirrored from the source to all other desktops. This is called coming. Linked cloning will have the virtual disk from a master desktop linked to all other desktops. It helps save space on the server. The data is saved separately. 

Full cloning will have the desktops not linked to the master, and have them function as independent units. Hence, they will use separate disk space.

VDI management software can be used to develop desktop pools. Then the admin can manage this pool, provision desktops to new users, set up policies, or develop a base-level configuration for all of the desktops in the environment.

VDI – A World of Possibility

Now that you have discovered for yourself the world of VDI, you can safely ascertain that it is one of opportunity. With the technological advances continually coming our way – VDI is becoming even more appropriate for a variety of use cases. 

Not only can VDI help business owners, but it can allow a whole new wave of remote workers to enjoy the capacity of such services to the full extent, as long as they have an internet connection. 

VDI can be used for creation, menial tasks, and just watching movies – the possibilities are endless. The only limit is your mind. 

If you’re interested in learning more about VDI or other pertinent concepts, consider getting in touch with us – because we do specialize.

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