The modern workplace is witnessing significant shifts, with the widespread adoption of remote work and the integration of hybrid cloud ecosystems becoming the new norm. The expansion of employees and diverse work environments has introduced formidable challenges in effectively administering manageability, security, and the essential infrastructure needed for seamless business operations.

Faced with these complexities, IT leaders actively seek cost-effective tools to streamline the management of these evolving work environments securely. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is the solution that fulfills this crucial role. Let us now uncover this IT solution.

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

In the quest for cost reduction, streamlined IT operations, enhanced communications, and increased agility, businesses are reevaluating virtualized desktop infrastructure as a solution to achieve these efficiencies and better support a distributed workforce.

The evolving landscape sees cloud-based VDI leveraging the capabilities of public cloud services, overcoming past limitations, and offering a smart solution for navigating today’s data-rich business environment. Early VDI deployments faced challenges like latency issues, impacting the end-user experience.

However, the current era benefits from robust and secure cloud solutions, ushering in a new generation of practical and satisfying cloud-based VDI. Success with VDI now hinges on pairing it with the right cloud-based file storage, eliminating latency issues, and reducing overall IT costs.

The two types of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) include persistent and non-persistent infrastructure, but what are they, and when are they used?

What is Persistent Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, and When Should It Be Used?

In a persistent VDI model, virtual desktops reside on virtual machines (VMs) within a data center. These virtual desktops mirror traditional PCs and are designated for individual users. Each user is allocated a personal desktop for file storage and customization, ensuring a tailored experience.

Personalized settings and data are retained across sessions, allowing users to access their customized virtual desktop without losing information. This unique trait has earned it the moniker “Stateful VDI.”

Persistent VDIs prove advantageous for organizations with a more specialized and knowledgeable user base. Particularly beneficial for knowledge workers and creative professionals who require custom configurations and advanced applications – this model ensures a consistent and personalized computing environment for users with distinct needs.

A persistent virtual desktop infrastructure environment is well-suited for various user scenarios, including:

  • Students with consistent device usage

    • Students who use the same devices throughout their educational journey benefit from persistent VDI, ensuring a consistent and personalized computing experience across different classes and activities.
  • Professionals in specialized fields

    • Professionals in specialized fields such as engineering, architecture, law, and healthcare often require customized setups and specific applications. Persistent VDI caters to their needs by providing a consistent environment with personalized settings.
  • Developers needing consistent development environments

    • Developers who require a stable and uniform development environment can leverage persistent VDI to maintain consistency in tools, configurations, and dependencies across various projects.
  • Employees in dynamic environments

    • Workers in dynamic environments like research labs, classrooms, and training rooms, where application requirements change frequently, benefit from the adaptability of persistent VDI. It allows them to access a personalized virtual desktop regardless of evolving software needs.
  • Full-time staff requiring regular access

    • Full-time staff members who need regular access to personalized virtual desktops while retaining essential settings find persistent VDI an ideal solution. This ensures a seamless and efficient workflow for consistent users.

Organizations implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies find distinct advantages in adopting persistent VDIs, thanks to the familiarity, convenience, and swift deployment they offer.

However, it’s important to note that these benefits come hand in hand with higher costs, rendering persistent VDIs a more viable option for enterprises with substantial budgets. Let us now cover the second type of VDI in detail.

What is Non-Persistent Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, and When Should It Be Used?

Non-persistent VDI diverges from its persistent counterpart by facilitating shared virtual desktops among multiple users, undergoing a reset after each session —referred to as “Stateless VDI.” This model doesn’t retain user settings or data after logout; virtual desktops revert to their original state, orchestrated through organized pools.

Central to non-persistent VDI is the management via a master image, often termed a golden or base image. This image encapsulates the operating system, configuration settings, and customizations, establishing a uniform environment across multiple virtual desktops. Users logging in are provided a fresh instance of this base image, ensuring consistency and operational efficiency.

Recognized for its economic viability, non-persistent virtual desktop infrastructure services are particularly advantageous for organizations with a high volume of users. It excels in scenarios where budget constraints exist, offering substantial savings on hardware and operational costs. This makes it an astute choice for organizations seeking cost-effectiveness without compromising the efficiency and experience of their virtual desktop environment.

The practicality of non-persistent VDI extends to scenarios where users require a standardized setup. This includes various user categories:

  • Client desktops (Kiosk mode desktops)

    • Tailored for specific purposes, such as airline check-in stations, customer self-service kiosks, and medical data entry stations.
  • Call centers and BPO employees

    • Ideal for users in call centers and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) environments who don’t require personalized desktops but need a consistent set of applications.
  • Students in educational institutions

    • Particularly beneficial in educational settings with static classroom setups or student labs where custom setups are unnecessary.
  • Participants in training facilities

    • Useful for individuals in training sessions requiring a standard desktop environment.
  • Task workers in retail and warehousing

    • Well-suited for employees engaged in repetitive tasks, utilizing a standard set of applications in retail and warehousing environments.
  • Temporary employees and contractors

    • Effective for providing access to applications during brief assignments and accommodating the needs of temporary personnel.

Understanding the distinctions between persistent and non-persistent virtual desktop infrastructure is crucial for informed deployment decisions. Once you grasp these concepts, it becomes evident how critical choices can greatly impact the success of your VDI implementation.

Identifying Two Common Pitfalls in Implementing Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

The advantages of a cloud-based VDI are diminished without transitioning to a cloud-native file storage system. Both approaches offer some benefits compared to traditional workstation systems but have significant drawbacks.

Mistake 1: Keeping file data stored on-premises

Maintaining file data on on-premises network attached storage (NAS) and file server infrastructure while transitioning to cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) perpetuates several issues inherent in traditional file storage:

  • Constant refresh and expansion: The need for regular refreshing and expansion of NAS and file servers persists, leading to ongoing challenges in managing storage capacity.
  • Backup complexity: The requirement for backups remains, necessitating efforts in performing, storing, and managing backup processes. This introduces additional complexity and potential points of failure.
  • Recovery challenges: In a local disaster, recovery can extend over days or weeks, impacting business continuity and productivity.
  • Latency issues: Introducing virtual desktops in a cloud data center while keeping home directories, group shares, and profiles on-premises introduces latency concerns. Users located far from the optimized virtual desktop infrastructure may experience delays in accessing data due to the geographical distance data has to traverse.
  • Capital Expenditure (CapEx) concerns: Ongoing hardware and software expenditures persist, contributing to continued CapEx costs, which can be a significant financial burden for the organization.

Mistake 2: ‘Lift and shift’ on-prem file storage technology to the cloud

Organizations sometimes opt for the ‘lift and shift’ strategy, moving their existing on-premises NAS environment to its cloud-based counterpart. However, this does not equate to embracing cloud-native file storage and its associated services. This approach carries its own set of limitations and drawbacks:

  1. Costly cloud-based NAS: Cloud-based NAS relies on expensive block storage, with costs reaching up to USD 3,000 per terabyte per year. This expense can escalate rapidly, impacting the overall cost-effectiveness of cloud migration.
  2. Separate backup and disaster recovery: Despite the shift to the cloud, backup and disaster recovery technologies remain separate entities that demand additional investments and implementation efforts.
  3. Data silos and management complexity: Organizations with multiple locations requiring desktops hosted in different cloud regions may encounter challenges. This setup leads to multiple silos of file data that require intricate management. Cross-location file sharing becomes costly and complex.
  4. Scalability limitations: The scalability of this approach is restricted by constraints on volume, directory, file size, and the number of snapshots, hindering the ability to adapt to evolving business needs.

To Summarize

The selection between persistent and non-persistent virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) underscores critical considerations for organizations. Persistent VDIs and hosting personalized environments prove indispensable for specialized user bases, including students, professionals, developers, and dynamic workforces. However, the accompanying higher costs necessitate substantial budgets, limiting their feasibility.

Conversely, non-persistent VDIs emerge as an economical solution for high-volume user scenarios, excelling in standardized setups for specific purposes like kiosks, call centers, and educational institutions. These VDIs leverage master images, enhancing operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Yet, potential pitfalls lurk in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementation. The first mistake, retaining on-premises file storage, introduces complexities, latencies, and costs. The second error, the ‘lift and shift’ approach, risks costly cloud-based NAS, separate backup systems, data silos, and scalability limitations. Organizations must navigate these intricacies judiciously, leveraging cloud-native file storage to fully optimize the advantages of a cloud-based VDI.

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