Thursday, August 3, 2023

What is VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)? A Detailed Guide

Looking at today’s work environment, it is often challenging to manage multiple desktops across your organization. This is due to the increasing complexity of software updates, security threats, and demand for remote work. However, the advent of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has made delivering desktop services to employees and users more efficient and flexible. Read on to learn more about VDI, its inner workings, benefits, drawbacks, use cases, and implementations.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

What is VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is a desktop and app virtualization service that provides a multi-user operating system experience, typically Microsoft Windows. Using this service, organizations deploy virtual machines that can be accessed from anywhere using devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets connected to the internet. It eliminates the need for the company to provide employees with physical machines while also worrying about their repairs and replacements.

Companies nowadays replay on VDI to run conventional desktop workloads on centralized servers. This gives businesses the ability to support remote workers and also provides controlled access to partners and contractors. In this way, business apps and data are well protected, while employees don’t have to worry about mixing corporate and personal data.

How does VDI work?

VDI environments can get increasingly more complex than traditional desktop infrastructure due to the extensive number of VMs running on the hypervisor. Also, many different technologies need to work together to bring a virtual desktop to the end user. Now, let’s systematically break down how a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure functions:

Hypervisor: It comes as no surprise that a hypervisor is required for VDI to function. The hypervisor allows the allocation of hardware resources to virtual machines, which are then assigned to users.

Virtual Machine Provisioning: Now, a dedicated VM that represents a desktop instance is assigned to each user. These virtual machines can run their own operating systems, apps, and user settings.

Desktop Streaming: The users can connect to their assigned VM through a remote access client. The desktop interface of the VM is then streamed to the user’s device in real-time. So, users can now interact with their virtual desktop and access company data as if it were a physical machine.

Data Storage: Users can decide to store their files in the VM or within the centralized storage system. In persistent VDI deployments, where each user has a dedicated virtual machine, personal data can be stored in the VM. However, in non-persistent deployments, users store their data in shared network drives or cloud storage, allowing them to access the files from any VM they are connected to. We will elaborate more on persistent and non-persistent deployments later.

Management and Maintenance: Finally, management and maintenance are always challenging tasks. However, VDI simplifies desktop management by centralizing administration tasks. Furthermore, maintenance becomes a piece of cake as IT administrators can deploy updates, patches, and new apps to all VMs from a centralized location. It also becomes possible to manage user access, set security policies, and monitor system performance.

Persistent vs Non-persistent VDI deployments

IT administrators can deploy persistent or non-persistent virtual desktops. Let us check out their main characteristics:

Persistent deployments

Here, the user is assigned a standardized virtual desktop once they log in for the first time. Whenever they log in subsequently, they are connected to the same desktop with all their changes and progress saved in the virtual operating system image. This is very conducive for users with complex digital workflows as they can easily track their changes and keep their personalized settings.

Non-persistent deployments

In contrast to persistent deployments, end users are connected to a randomized virtual desktop each time their login. So, no changes are saved when the desktop restarts. This is also beneficial in the sense that IT admins don’t have to maintain numerous customized OS images. Therefore, less storage is used, which reduces cost and simplifies VDI provisioning.

Persistent VDI Non-persistent VDI
  • Better customization and personalization
  • Straightforward for the VDI end-user
  • Easier image and desktop management
  • Less storage required
  • Challenging image management
  • Higher storage requirements
  • Limited personalization and flexibility

What are the benefits and drawbacks of VDI?

There are lots of benefits enterprises can gain from implementing VDI, such as user mobility, flexibility, and centralized security management. Also, there are a few limitations that businesses wanting to implement VDI should know. Previously, it was not very attractive for companies to adopt VDI due to its high-performance requirements because of the cost to deploy on legacy systems. However, the rise of hyperconvergence Infrastructure (HCI) has made the implementation of VDI scalable and less costly. So, let’s check out the benefits and limitations of VDI in detail:

Benefits of VDI

Centralized Desktop Management: The centralization of desktop management enabled by VDI allows IT admins to control and manage desktop environments from a central location. More so, it ensures that updates, patches, and software installations can be easily and swiftly deployed to all virtual desktop environments. So, implementing VDI into business workflows brings consistency and simplifies the job of IT admins.

Enhanced Security: When an employee’s device gets lost or stolen, the risk of data breach significantly increases because their passwords and sensitive info are stored there. VDI solves this problem because all the sensitive information and apps are kept in the company’s data centre or in the cloud . Also, it becomes easy to implement stringent security measures, such as data encryption, access controls, and regular backups in a centralized and controlled way.

Flexible Remote Access: One of the main benefits of VDI is that employees and users can access their virtual desktops from anywhere, using various devices such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops. This ensures workflow continuity and significantly decreases bottlenecks due to location or unforeseen disasters. So, VDI’s flexibility empowers employees to work remotely, collaborate effectively, and maintain productivity from anywhere in the world.

Device Independence: As we have reiterated several times in this article, VDI gives users the flexibility to access their virtual desktops from various devices. It promotes the adoption of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.

Cost Saving: There are multiple ways VDI can help enterprises reduce costs. Firstly, it reduces hardware costs because virtual desktops can run on less powerful devices as compared to traditional desktop setups. This implies that older hardware can be repurposed as thin clients, thereby extending their lifespan. Furthermore, IT labour and support costs are reduced due to centralized IT infrastructure management.

Scalability and Resource Optimization: Using VDI, organizations are able to easily scale because new virtual desktops can be quickly provisioned when needed. Computing resources can be dynamically allocated based on the needs of the users. This ensures users can perform their tasks efficiently with the optimal amount of resources needed.

Improved Disaster Recovery: VDI facilitates faster recovery and business continuity in the event of system failure or disaster, even when devices are lost. Virtual desktops can be easily restored from backup systems or alternate data centres. This ensures that employees and other users can resume work with minimal disruptions.

Limitations of VDI

Even with the numerous benefits of virtual desktop infrastructure, there are some limitations that are noteworthy. For example, if the resources are not allocated properly, users may experience lag, latency or other problems…

Furthermore, for VDI to function, several components need to work together flawlessly to provide users with virtual desktops. So, if any backend components are having issues or the VM deployment system is running out of space, employees would not be able to make virtual desktop connections.

Lastly, VDI relies on stable internet connectivity to function. If any network issues arise, users could potentially experience lag or even disconnections from their virtual desktops.. This can be a serious bottleneck for remote workers who heavily depend on internet connections to access their files.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Use Cases

The implementation of VDI should not be done for the like of it. For it to be successful and serve its purpose, companies should assess their users diligently from the perspective of where they work and what they do.

Remote work and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Policies: One of the main use cases for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is facilitating remote work and BYOD policies. Employees can access their virtual desktops from any device and any location, provided they have an internet connection. This greatly improves productivity and flexibility.

Enabling Shift or task-based work: Nonpersistent VDI is particularly useful for companies like public computer labs and call centres that have many users who need the same app to perform tasks.

Highly regulated industries: The use of VDI is critical to companies that need to strictly comply with data protection laws, such as financial services or governments. Since the data is centralized servers rather than individual devices, VDI reduces the risk of data breaches.

Software development and testing: Software engineers use VDI to create and test apps in controlled environments. It significantly helps to improve software quality and reduce the risk of deployment issues.

Graphic design and multimedia production: As technology continues to advance, more VDI solutions have the ability to support high-performance graphics, making them suitable for graphic design, video editing, and more.

VDI vs. Desktop Virtualization vs. Virtual Machines (VMs)

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: VDI is a specific type of desktop virtualization with the ability to host desktop environments on a centralized server which then deploys them to end users on request. The key aspect of VDI is that it manages and delivers virtual desktops that are run on virtual machines from a central location

Desktop virtualization: Desktop virtualization, on the other hand, refers to technology that separates a computer desktop environment from the physical computer. And VDI falls under the category of desktop virtualization, among others, such as Remote Desktop Services (RDS).

Virtual machine (VM): A virtual machine is a software emulation of a computer system. They are created by partitioning a physical server into multiple virtual servers using a hypervisor. Moreover, VMs are the building blocks of both VDI and desktop virtualization strategies.

Step-by-step guide on how to implement VDI

Implementing a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure can prove to be a very complex process depending on the size of your organization and its requirements. Here is a step-by-step guide for a successful VDI implementation:

Define your goals: The very first thing is to identify the problems you are trying to solve with VDI, such as facilitating remote work, improving desktop management, enhancing security, and more. It will be the building block of the implementation process.

Assess your current users and infrastructure: Once the goals have been defined, it is vital to evaluate your existing network, server, and storage infrastructure. This is to ensure that it can support VDI. Also, review the current desktop and application environment to understand the requirements for the virtual desktops. From the assessment, upgrade your network, server, and storage infrastructure as needed. You also need to access the user’s performance requirements. Different setups are needed for users with graphics-intensive apps versus those who are not running resource-intensive workloads.

Test your VDI environment: Before rolling out the VDI to all users, perform extensive testing to ensure everything works as expected.

Train users and IT staff: Another crucial step is to ensure that all those using the VDI are trained. So, users need to know how to make their way around the virtual desktops, while IT admins need to understand the management and troubleshooting of the VDI environment.

Roll out your VDI environment: Now, it’s time to start deploying virtual desktops to users. However, it is best to do so in stages. First, start with a small group of users to catch and fix any issues that pass the testing phase. Then, you can roll it out to the entire organization.

Monitor and optimize: Once the VDI has been deployed to all users, there needs to be constant monitoring and optimization. This is crucial to ensure its health and performance because feedback from users and performance data will be used to optimize the VDI.


To conclude, virtual desktop infrastructure is an ideal solution for organizations looking to facilitate remote work and in highly regulated industries. The deployment of VDI provides secure, flexible access to desktop environments, simplifies regulatory compliance, and offers controlled settings for software testing. At first, implementation can be complex and challenging that’s why we have provided a step-by-step guide to help you through the process. However, the returns in terms of simplified desktop infrastructure management, resource utilization efficiency, and centralized security management can be a game changer.


Why VDI?

VDI provides lots of benefits, such as user mobility, flexibility, ease of access, and better security. Previously, companies found it challenging and costly to implement VDI due to high-performance requirements. However, presently, HCI has made it scalable and less costly.

What is RDS, and how does it differ from VDI?

Remote Desktop Services or RDS is also a type of desktop virtualization like VDI. However, it is a simpler solution that helps users share resources and apps of a single virtual machine or server hosted in a cloud or on premises. VDI, on the other hand, gives each user a dedicated virtual machine with their own desktop environment.

What is DaaS and how does it differ from VDI?

Desktop-as-a-Service or DaaS is a cloud service where the VDI is hosted by a third-party provider and can be accessed by users with an internet connection. It offers business flexibility, scalability, and lower upfront cost. Conversely, VDI is a ‘private’ solution where the organization hosts and manages the virtual desktops on its own servers. VDI normally offers more control but comes with a higher upfront investment.

What are the key players in the VDI market?

Some of the key players in the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) market include VMware, Microsoft, AWS, StarWind, HP, Cisco, and Citrix.

This material has been prepared in collaboration with Asah Syxtus Mbuo, Technical Writer at StarWind.

from StarWind Blog

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