Virtualization engineers can list multiple ways virtual desktops can cut costs while solving a host of problems. While we're not questioning the operational benefits of virtual desktop infrastructure--in fact, we think VDI will eventually deliver much better security and data management--CIOs must realize that ROI is entirely dependent on IT's ability to integrate business processes with VDI's unique features. If you have the right dynamic, VDI will yield significant returns. But roll out the technology without proper planning, and you may end up spending more while fending off disgruntled users.
Fortunately, we have an eight-step process to help you gauge the potential returns on a VDI deployment by examining organizational structure, existing virtualization adoption, security, employee productivity, support, disaster recovery, and power savings.
1. Determine whether the cost of a more-expert data center staff can be offset by needing fewer people to administer desktops. One thing most early adopters we've worked with agree on is that building and maintaining virtual desktop images and troubleshooting VDI problems require a well-trained IT staff. Deploying a limited number of identical workstation images en masse will reduce the overall amount of labor required to maintain desktops, but the technical expertise of the people performing those functions must increase dramatically. If you now use machine-imaging techniques to simp-lify and homogenize workstation deployments, your staff should easily adapt to VDI problem-solving and maintenance.
2. Determine how much desktop customization is required. The best candidates for VDI are organizations that don't have a lot of user groups and whose employees have uniform application requirements. At small companies, workers often fill multiple roles, so their desktops are highly customized; that means many images must be maintained. And this translates to management complexity in the data center.
3. Determine your current level of virtualization adoption. If you're already virtualized at the server level, desktop virtualization becomes a more attractive proposition for several reasons. Whether your vendor is Citrix, Microsoft, Sun, or VMware, odds are that your existing virtualized servers can be used to provide fault tolerance and better availability for your virtual desktops. In some cases, where the server environment is underutilized, it may even be possible to support VDI with minimal additional server purchases.
4. Determine your security and compliance posture as it pertains to desktops. If security is of paramount importance, desktop virtualization can bring major, cost-effective improvements. By centralizing desktop resources in a secure data center, it's much easier to keep sensitive information from leaving the organization. Of course, depending on whether you use all thin clients or have some older PCs mixed in, data may still leak out through flash media, removable hard drives, and other peripherals, so standard endpoint security software should still be employed in tandem with VDI.
In addition, thin clients use only a few protocols to make and sustain connections to desktop images in the data center, in contrast with typical desktops that may use hundreds of different protocols, depending on applications. Fewer protocols always equals better security.
Download the June 7, 2010 digital supplement on desktop virtualization.