Pros and cons of building up VDI in the current market

Determining how to host and manage desktops for an entire organization is a major task, so business leaders need to understand the modern VDI market before making this decision.

Like any other technology, virtual desktops and VDI have advantages and disadvantages, so before organizations decide whether to implement the technology, they need to evaluate if VDI is right fit for them.

Organizations shouldn't rush into any business purchase, but VDI requires an exceptionally time and resource intensive setup process, so organizations should take extra time to evaluate the pros and cons of VDI in this modern desktop virtualization market.

Pros and cons of building up modern VDI

Perhaps the single biggest advantage to virtual desktops is that IT teams can make them far more secure than physical desktops. Because virtual desktops run on a back-end server, organizations can lock them down to prevent any alterations or unauthorized software installations. If a user does manage to change anything, administrators can reset the virtual desktop to a pristine state at the end of the session.

Another advantage to virtual desktops is the ease of management. It is typically far easier to centrally manage a collection of virtual desktops than it is to manage a collection of physical PCs. Virtual desktops also work well in BYOD environments. Depending on the virtualization platform, organizations can deliver a virtual desktop to several different device types.

Of course, virtual desktops do have some disadvantages, one of which is complexity.

Virtual desktop deployments involve a lot of different components, which tends to make troubleshooting more difficult than it would be in a physical desktop environment. This complexity also means that the initial startup cost tends to be high. An organization must purchase and deploy several components before it can provision the first virtual desktop. These components vary by platform, but can include virtualization hosts, load balancers, security servers and more.

There are also licensing costs to consider, and VDI licensing costs can be quite high. In an environment that uses physical desktops, each desktop needs an OS license. Virtual desktops also require an operating system license. However, users must still use a physical device to access their virtual desktop and that physical device, whatever it is, will need a license for its native operating system.

This native operating system license is a non-issue for some devices. If a user is working from an iPad for example, the OS license is included with the device. If, however, the user is accessing the virtual desktop environment from a Windows PC, then two OS licenses are required -- one for the native operating system and one for the virtual desktop. These desktop OS licenses are in addition to any server licenses and client access licenses that may be required. Again, the licensing requirements vary by platform and some organizations have found that using an open source technology yields a significant savings.

It's also important to consider whether any users' applications will run on a virtual desktop. While most applications will generally work fine in a virtual desktop environment, some will require minor alterations. There are also applications that either will not work or are not licensed for use in virtual desktop environments.

Virtual desktop administrators must carefully design virtual desktop environments to avoid having any single points of failure. This means organizations must invest in redundant hypervisors, connection brokers, load balancers and more. Redundancy improves reliability and performance, but it also increases hardware and licensing costs. This will affect both upfront costs and monthly payments as well as overall support and maintenance costs.

Is VDI still relevant in 2023?

Given the cost and complexity associated with VDI, organizations must stop and consider whether VDI is even still a viable option in 2023.

While there are still VDI implementations being used in production environments, the IT industry is largely moving away from VDI in favor of DaaS.

In some ways, VDI is still relevant. In recent years, trends such as hybrid work and BYOD have increasingly gained traction, so users frequently work from outside the office using a wide variety of devices. VDI can go a long way toward meeting the challenges associated with BYOD and hybrid work because it allows users to work from a carefully configured and secure enterprise desktop regardless of where they are working from and what type of device they are using. Additionally, the virtual desktop serves as an abstraction layer, reducing the chances of a user saving corporate data on their personal device.

Another reason why an organization might choose to use VDI in 2023 is because of the need to support legacy applications. One of the best things about VDI environments is that most VDI platforms give administrators a great deal of flexibility for the way that virtual desktops are configured. This means an organization might be able to configure a virtual desktop to run custom and legacy applications, while running the same application on a cloud-based platform might not be an option.

Organizations might also opt to continue using VDI virtual desktops in 2023 because of legal or compliance reasons. VDI environments allow virtual desktops to run on virtual machines in the organization's own data center. This may make it easier for an organization to comply with certain regulations, particularly regarding the geographic location of data.

Finally, there are also business reasons to consider. Specifically, if an organization has invested in a pricey virtual desktop environment, then it may not seem prudent to abandon that investment just to move to a cloud-based desktop as a service (DaaS) environment. This may be especially true if the organization has not yet fully depreciated the hardware cost or if the organization is locked into long-term support contracts.

DaaS as an alternative to modern VDI

While there are still VDI implementations being used in production environments, the IT industry is largely moving away from VDI in favor of DaaS. Ultimately, DaaS may or may not be less expensive than using VDI when measured over the long term, but there are some undeniable advantages to using DaaS.

A chart comparing VDI and DaaS.

The biggest advantage is that DaaS is generally offered as a managed service, meaning that IT pros don't have to worry about managing or maintaining the underlying infrastructure. The hosting company handles everything from patch management to hardware refreshes.

Another advantage of using DaaS is that by moving virtual desktops out of a data center, organizations may free up a considerable amount of internet bandwidth for other uses. This is especially true if most of the users work remotely.

Finally, DaaS is likely going to be the obvious choice for organizations that are just getting started with virtual desktops. Setting up a VDI environment from scratch requires a large upfront investment and a considerable amount of time. Building up VDI also requires certain skills from the IT department and may take up a significant portion of their time, thus pulling resources away from other tasks. In contrast, organizations can implement a DaaS environment in a matter of hours and for a small fraction of the VDI startup cost.

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