With today’s technology, service providers are finding new ways to make desktop virtualization worthwhile.
The concept of virtualization has been around for many years, yet service providers are finding new ways to use virtualization thereby improving IT environments for their clients in the wake of decentralization, escalating costs and low performance. The result: Companies are showing renewed interest in the service.
To understand a virtual desktop experience, picture this: An employee sits down at a computer and sees the familiar desktop they usually see. However, instead of the processing function of the computer occurring at their desk, it’s actually occurring at a central data center and the employee is merely seeing a representation of it on their screen. When they move the mouse, they are really moving it on a computer that's in the data center, instead of the computer where they are sitting. When they save data, they are saving it to the computer in the data center. Creating a virtual desktop infrastructure allows businesses to use a centralized desktop image for different classes of users, providing a very consistent, controlled environment for their staff regardless of their location.
Desktop Virtualization in Action
Educational institutions have recently started seeing the benefits of moving to a virtual desktop infrastructure. Once they implement the central data center, they can use it for desktops in a lab, regardless of a computer’s age or condition. The school has complete control over what applications are available on those desktops without having to worry about maintaining hardware and desktop image on each and every PC. Each time a student sits down in front of a computer, it has already reset itself to the school’s standard desktop thus diffusing any work, viruses, malware or intentional mischief left over from the previous user. Virtual desktop infrastructure offers schools a way to turn six base computers into six hundred machines, without added cost or time to deploy and maintain the OS and application on each.
Privately-held companies and other businesses can benefit for desktop virtualization or VDI environments in the same way. The company or organization has now placed the employees desktop back into the controlled environment of the data center. This allows them to protect the company’s data and infrastructure as a result. Anytime an employee logs in remotely from a device, they are also working virtually. All activity – opening applications, creating and saving documents, etc. – is actually being done on the “real” computer in the company’s data center and is protected from external viruses, hacks and other hindrances that make data valuable. The company’s data is not leaving the data center on a user’s laptop or being downloaded to the users home PC. A company can also put parameters in place for web search, permissions for download and the like to protect the real computer, and the data it holds, from localized viruses at the site of the virtual desktop.
Let’s say your company has six base computer images that they use throughout and each of those images is used on a hundred desktops. In a VDI world, if a version of software needs to be installed or updated, there are just six computers to update. Once the update is complete, a reconstruct is done for the 600 virtual desktops and everyone has the update. Also, in a VDI environment, the old version of the software can be left on the base computers until the end user is comfortable with the new version. This can all be done form the main data center, alleviating the need to visit each and every one of the desktops for software updates. There is also no need to back up every desktop across slow home or branch connections. Virtualization allows for these back-ups to occur from the centralized location.
Although the cost of setting up a virtual desktop infrastructure can seem like a large initial investment, it is actually an investment with many lives. In the VDI environment, older computers are fully capable of working at optimum speed because they aren’t actually doing the work. The need to buy the newest, most up-to-date hardware for every computer station is virtually eliminated.
Until recently it wasn’t a cost savings to use a thin client as a desktop replacement (see note below “thin client”). Now, thin clients allow you to maintain computational services at a reduced total cost of ownership. The cost of these devices has come down considerably and they offer a level of security and convenience that is amazing.
Thin Client: In our example thin client refers to a device that contains the logic required to connect to the virtual desktop environment and to present a desktop experience to the end user. This device consists of a connection device, monitor, keyboard, and Mouse. Some of these devices have the connection device built into the monitor or keyboard.
Desktop Virtualization of the Future
Over the next five to 10 years, cloud computing could revolutionize the current desktop virtualization model.
An ideal situation could look like this: A company moves their servers and desktop to a Cloud provider. This provider will provide all computing (desktop and server) as a service. This provides the expertise to keep the entire system working seamlessly and at LAN speeds. It provides support with security, storage, applications and desktop that the company buys as a service at a fixed cost. While the “Everything-as-a-service” licensing model is where the industry is heading, it will take time for this model to evolve into a more cost effective solution. But be aware the Bell can provide most of this today.