VDI Architectures and Endpoints

Figure 1: VDI endpoints on the user’s desks connect to Virtual Machines running on shared servers in the data center

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI, is a desktop computing architecture that centralizes the desktop operating system and applications on Virtual Machines, or VMs, running on a hypervisor on a shared physical server in the data center. VDI promises significant benefits in containing and reducing the management and support burden of delivering desktop computing. VDI, unlike earlier end-user virtualization approaches like terminal services and application virtualization, is intended to deliver the full capabilities of a native Windows desktop to users.

All of the many technological and architectural approaches to VDI share the common goal of freeing the user’s desktop computing environment (and in turn the supporting IT staff) from the constraints and problems associated with deploying, maintaining, securing, and running Windows on physically distributed personal computer hardware.

There are a wide range of VDI architecture choices: what level of centralization, which hypervisors, management tools, and connection brokers to use; whether virtual desktops are only server-based or also client-based, etc. Possibly the most critical choice is the endpoint types or architecture. This choice will often drive many, if not all, of your other VDI architecture, technology, and vendor choices.

The four main types of VDI endpoints are blade PCs, software clients, thin clients and zero clients. Because they have captured the bulk of the current VDI market, this whitepaper looks in depth at thin clients and zero clients.

Five Key Factors for Chooseing a VDI Endpoint

VDI endpoints help deliver many of the benefits of deploying VDI. Five key factors in making a VDI endpoint choice are:

1. Improve Productivity – Stateless and management-free VDI endpoints can eliminate the need for IT staff to travel to users in order to resolve problems or perform maintenance. Deploying or replacing an endpoint should never require more than connecting wires and turning it on.

2. Simplify Adoption – Endpoints, and their supporting VDI software, should provide essentially the same user experience as native Windows running on the desktop PC they replaced. This not only saves time retraining users and support staff, but also simplifies supporting the large number of peripherals that users rely on.

3. Conserve Energy – Efficient VDI endpoints use just a few percent of the electricity consumed by desktop PCs, cutting substantially the electricity used to power and cool the devices. This savings alone could potentially pay for the VDI deployment in just a few years.

4. Strengthen Security – By not storing any data (even temporarily) on the endpoint, the risk to confidential data from malware, hardware failures, or endpoint theft can be eliminated. VDI endpoints should also not present any new security holes that malware could attack.

5. Slash TCO – The key overall driver for selecting VDI endpoints is the promise of radically lowering the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) while still delivering a reliable Windows-based desktop computing infrastructure. In addition to savings from higher IT productivity and energy savings, VDI endpoints should deliver further TCO savings by limiting costs from endpoint hardware and software, systems integration, and user or IT staff retraining.

These five benefits are the key drivers for the return on investments you can expect to realize from deploying VDI in place of traditional PCs. In order to achieve optimal results, it is critical to make careful choices in both the technical architectures and the products and vendors included in your VDI deployment plans.

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