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Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a hyped term in the technology market right now. Unfortunately, the term has really become ambiguous, as VDI is more so a concept than a technology. VDI actually encompasses a suite of different technologies; therefore, it is important to distinguish between what is being delivered and how it is set up. In this blog, we’ll attempt to define the what and who of VDI.

What is VDI from a high-level perspective?

The industry has had a hard time defining terms. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is an umbrella term for many technologies put together. As a concept, VDI delivers desktops, applications, operating systems, and data to end users. VDI generally encompasses desktop virtualization, which separates the PC desktop from a physical machine, but you can have desktop virtualization without VDI. For example, a published terminal services desktop is also considered desktop virtualization; however, VDI is generally associated with hosted virtual desktops (HVDs), while a published terminal services desktop is associated with Server Based Computing (SBC), two very different technologies.

There are companies that perform remote desktop solutions on a 1 to 1 basis and call it VDI. For instance, if someone were to deploy a 1,500 user device, it would take 1,500 pieces of hardware to deploy. In this case, no virtualization actually takes places because they are accessing a physical desktop. Although, this is technically a form of VDI, it’s a very clunky one. VDI can be optimized in a ratio like 1000 to 1 instead. That is, where you have 1000 users using thin clients that give them access to a single virtualized desktop. A thin client is when someone is using a computer that relies heavily on another server or computer. In this case, you don’t need a physical desktop for each remote desktop.

Who are the main vendors?

A hypervisor is a foundational layer that virtualizes the desktop. There are three main vendors that provide hypervisors to the VDI market: VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. VMware offers what is called VMware view. VMware view allows you to customize the desktop by virtualizing and delivering a single image model where a gold master is used for a base image of the desktops. The base operating system and applications are the same so that a single image is rolled out to all users. Citrix has a similar structure called XenDesktop with the HDX protocol and Microsoft offers Hyper-V with the RDP protocol.

Stay tuned for the end of the story behind VDI (part 2) as we will cover the scope of VDI, discuss scenarios that have and haven’t worked, evaluate the benefits of moving to VDI for a CPA firm, and finally address Xcentric’s stance towards VDI.

Special thanks to Jason Conger for his input on this article.

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