|Like most network teams, you’re probably comfortable with virtualization after having migrated servers and storage over to the virtual world. But, if your organization is now considering implementing a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), don’t worry, you’re in good company|
While the number of firms using VDI is currently between 5-10 percentage, Gartner is forecasting that this technology will become mainstream in two years. Of particular note, a Gartner user survey conducted in 2011 found that more than 20 percent of SMB respondents planned to implement virtual desktops in the next 12 months.
How VDI Impacts Your Job
You might look at the above numbers and think, “This doesn’t apply to me. I have seen VDI and it’s expensive to deploy, speeds were slow, and the users could tell the difference between it and a regular desktop experience.”
But to steal a line from Bob Dylan, “…the times they are a-changin’.”
The latest generation of VDI technologies addresses many previous deployment and end-user challenges faced by earlier adopters. Coupled with education efforts from Citrix and VMware, there’s good reason to believe VDI will be coming to a network near you.
As with server virtualization, the implementation decision will come from elsewhere within the organization, but performance management challenges will fall to the network team to resolve. With this in mind, the following matrix outlines the top benefits and challenges of VDI from the network team’s perspective.
VDI Benefits and Challenges
|Simplified Management: Many aspects of managing users become easier; from deploying new desktops in minutes to issuing patches and upgrades. Response time is faster and the need for on-site management is greatly reduced.||Handling Increased Bandwidth Demand: With VDI, the network needs to handle aggregate traffic from many desktops to a single location in the data center. Delivering graphics-intense or video applications in a virtual environment may require upgrading to 10 Gigabit in the core and Gigabit to the desktop.|
|Improved Data Security: Rather than residing on a local laptop that can be stolen, the data resides on a protected server separate from the user’s device.||Ensuring User Experience: With processing and storage handled by a centralized server rather than the client, the delivery of results introduces a potential point of delay. To understand user experience pre-deployment, benchmark application response times. Monitor post-deployment to ensure delivery times stay in line with user expectations.|
|Greater Control: Lock down the desktop environment while allowing for network-approved customization by users.||Collaborating with IT Teams: The centralization of infrastructure by virtualization requires teams to work together in solving performance problems. Good communication between team managers is essential for successful service delivery management.|
|User DR Made Easy: Thegreatest challenge in helping users recover from system meltdowns usually lies in recovering their files. You can be at the mercy of the user to back up their data regularly. With their data automatically stored on servers, this is no longer an issue and quick recovery is almost a certainty.||Addressing Monitoring Complexities: Isolating the cause of performance problems can increase in difficulty with the introduction of new virtual environments and underlying physical servers. Being able to view and correlate performance between the virtual desktop and underlying hosts is essential for quick problem resolution.|
|User-Owned Devices: Whether laptop, home desktop, or smart phone, how users access data doesn’t matter with VDI. Users access the desktop via secure browser connection, and rights and resources can be automatically created, provisioned, and terminated.||Consider Clustering and Redundancy: When a single server failure can impact thousands of users, clustering and redundant servers and connectivity is a must for minimizing the impact of outages.|
With a basic understanding of how VDI can both streamline management processes and present new challenges to your network team, where do you go from here? Below are several resources to help you prepare for your VDI rendezvous.
- Preparing the Network for VDI
- Cisco Guide: Network Considerations for VDI
- Estimating VDI Bandwidth Demand
- Top 5 VDI Pros
- Top 5 VDI Cons