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How to pick out the right VDI use cases

VDI can help organizations, but only if IT applies it to the right use cases. Identifying those virtual desktop use cases starts with understanding the user type and location.

Once an organization decides to spend its money on VDI, it's common for decision-makers to want to see the technology in use as much as possible. Even so, IT must avoid shoehorning the technology into places it doesn't belong by applying it to the right VDI use cases.

Everybody could be a VDI user, but the infrastructure IT would need to manage all the VDI use cases would most likely be too expensive to be viable. Plus, the operational overhead of managing all the disparate VDI use cases would make the deployment too unwieldy. As a result, IT has to know when and where to apply VDI.

From the get go, IT will likely face some user resistance. It's not uncommon for a faction of users to feel that they are too important to have virtual desktops and demand to keep their powerful and status-enhancing physical desktops.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, IT might not think certain users really need access to dedicated virtual desktops of their own. These factors alone should not determine whether an employee receives a full locally deployed desktop or a remotely deployed virtual desktop, however. Instead, IT should focus on the technical factors that come into play with VDI uses cases.

Worker type

IT can strive to deliver all its desktops through VDI and centralize all its data. In some VDI use cases, such as single task environments like call centers, this is actually a reasonable goal. Corporate environments, however, are seldom so black and white. As a result, IT must spend time investigating its users and breaking them down into worker types.

VDI must realize return on investment

Task workers -- retail employees and warehouse workers, for example -- don't usually need a lot of resources. These workers generally use a single app or a small set of applications. They use their app or apps to accomplish a specific set of repeatable tasks.

Knowledge workers -- accountants and marketing research analysts, for example -- require access to more apps and resources than task workers. They generally work with larger documents, such as spreadsheets and presentations, and require access to email and the internet.

Power users -- app developers, for example -- require even more resources. They often work with computer-aided design (CAD) and graphics-intensive apps.

Kiosk users are users who work on shared devices in public places. An example would be students who work with computers in a school library.

Where users do their work

IT should also look at where users work.

Local users conduct their day-to-day business activities from a centrally located site close to the data center.

Remote users conduct their day-to-day business activities from central, but remote data center locations.

Mobile users work from a variety of locations that change on a regular basis. There is no guarantee that mobile users will have the connectivity they need to access a central data center.

Roaming users split their time between either local or remote sites or other corporate locations.

The virtual desktop matrix

The worker type and location alone are not enough. Instead, IT professionals should use a matrix to determine which user types and locations combine for the ideal VDI use cases. The green rectangles represent cases where VDI is a good fit. The red indicates where it will not work well. The yellow denotes areas that warrant discussion.

Virtual desktop matrix
When to use virtual desktops

This matrix is not perfect by any means. It does not account for factors such as bandwidth and latency between sites, for example. Users who connect to their desktops with a 1 GB link will have a significantly different experience than those who use a 3G connection, for example.

VDI is not perfect, and IT should only use it in the right use cases.

In addition, this matrix ignores application types. Heavy Microsoft Word usage is completely different from Photoshop and CAD usage. IT should also consider if its VDI deployment has graphics processing unit offload capabilities.

Still, this matrix can help IT make some decisions, but VDI is not perfect, and IT should only use it in the right use cases. 

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