Surveying the VDI Landscape

 

By Ben Marquis

4/28/2020

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is seeing a strong resurgence as companies re-evaluate how employees work post-COVID-19. In this post, we will discuss the highlights, pros, and cons of most popular VDI platforms and solutions.

There are three common reasons why companies choose to implement VDI:

  1. Security - With an increasingly mobile workforce and work from home employees, all the data is centrally stored with VDI. No data is stored on desktops or laptops, limiting the security risk on out of office hardware.
  2. Compliance - Regulatory compliance is made more difficult if data is stored on laptops, tablets, or even personal devices. Data lifecycle management and compliance can be centrally managed on VDI.
  3. Accessibility - COVID-19 brought this to light in a major way, employees need to be able to work from anywhere, anytime, and on a range of devices. As we return to a new normal, many workers will transition permanently to work from home.

Let's start by looking at the cloud-based VDI solutions:

Initially, Cloud-based VDI solutions have been popular because they can be faster to deploy than on-prem VDI. This is partly based on lead-times from OEMs that can have customers waiting upwards of 30 days to receive and install new equipment. If you work with a stocking vendor like xByte, that can configure to order and ship next day, you can have a complete solution within days not weeks.

  • Windows Virtual Desktop – It is currently built to run in the Azure cloud. MS Windows Virtual Desktop is a comprehensive desktop and app virtualization service that many companies are using to integrate data services from Azure Stack HCI. This solution currently cannot be run on-premise, but we expect that to change over time.
  • Amazon WorkSpaces – AWS’s managed secure Desktop-as-a-Service solution. You can use Amazon WorkSpaces to provision either Windows or Linux desktops in minutes and rapidly scale to thousands of desktops to employees at locations around the world. Billing models are available for monthly our hourly. WorkSpaces desktops are fast and responsive and accessible anywhere, anytime, and from a wide variety of devices.
  • VMware Horizon Cloud on AWS – As the name suggests, you can maintain VMware consistency from on-prem to cloud utilizing the VMware Horizon Cloud on AWS, including your VDI environments. This makes sense for companies that may have large numbers of remote employees scattered across the country or around the world.
  • CloudStar hosted VDI – CloudStar is a fast-growing Cloud Provider with points of presence across the US. They offer Citrix Virtual App or VMware Horizon hosted desktops, hosted VOIP, and Video/Voice Conferencing solutions. Full disclosure, CloudStar is a customer and a partner of xByte Technologies, they offer excellent solutions and service at an attractive price point.

Here are some of the more popular on-premise VDI applications:

These software applications are the most complete and mature offerings currently in the marketplace.

  • VMware Horizon – Horizon has become the standard for VDI in terms of market share and for good reason.
  • Workspace One – While not a stand alone VDI solution. Workspace One brings unparalleled security and flexibility to Horizon that allows your workers to access their desktop to work anytime, anywhere, and from any device.
  • Citrix Virtual App – While we don’t offer Citrix Software, we would be remiss to not mention it as they still hold a decent market share in the Virtual Desktop market.

Popular hardware solutions for on-premise VDI:

Dell EMC is number one in HCI and Ready Architectures for VDI. As a Dell EMC Gold Partner & VMware Enterprise Partner xByte can offer the entire Dell Technologies Portfolio. We offer pre-sales engineering services, such as workload analysis, and will gladly assist with right-sizing a solution to meet your current and projected future needs.

  • Dell PowerEdge Servers – 13th and 14th Generation Dell PowerEdge servers are perfect for smaller VDI deployments. xByte Stocks a wide array of Genuine Dell chassis, CPUs, GPUs, Memory, Disk Drives, NICs, RAID cards as well as most other server components you will need. We can configure in-stock servers to order (CTO) and can usually ship within 2 business days of order receipts.
  • Dell EMC Storage such as PowerVault ME4 or Unity XT If you are provisioning a larger number of desktops you may want to look at shared storage which is still a very popular choice. Both the ME4 and Unity XT are excellent options and can be ordered as all-flash arrays.  
  • VMware vSAN Ready Nodes on Dell PowerEdge – vSAN is one of the most popular HCI’s out there and also very popular as a VDI platform as it can easily scale up or out, allows you to perform maintenance without disruption, and is incredibly resilient. Using all-flash for better VDI performance and vSAN advanced with inline deduplication and compression you will likely need to purchase less disk than you would if using hybrid architecture.
  • Dell EMC vxRail  - vxRail is Dell EMC’s pre-packaged, easy to manage, easy to order, single support version of vSAN. While it runs vSAN under the covers, vxRail’s management interface is more user friendly. Consider this the “easy button” in the Dell EMC HCI portfolio!
  • Dell EMC vxRack For larger enterprise-wide VDI deployments vxRack ready architecture contains servers, network, storage, vSphere, vCenter, Horizon, and management software all rolled into a single solution.
  • Nutanix HCI Ready Nodes on Dell PowerEdge – Nutanix allows the use of Citrix Virtual App or VMware Horizon VDI solutions whether you elect vSphere or Acropolis hypervisors. With our Nutanix partnership, xByte can CTO Nutanix Ready Nodes in house and ship within days, not weeks. 
  • Dell PowerConnect S Series TOR Switching – VDI traditionally needs all-flash and depending on the number and type of users that you have you may want to look at upgrading the network that a VDI stack will run on to at least 10G or faster. Dell PowerConnect S series switches are offered in a variety of configurations with 10/25/40/100Gb connectivity from 12-96 Ports.
  • Dell Wyse Thin/Zero Clients – Many users take the opportunity to reduce client computing costs after migration to VDI and that often comes in the form of Thin Clients. 

Summary

Not all virtual desktops, both cloud or on-premise, will be the same just like physical desktop needs are not all the same. For example, you might have many users that use a few business applications, email, web conferencing, and internet browsers to do their day to day work. On the other end of the spectrum, you have employees that require real workstation power to perform their day-to-day tasks. You will need a VDI solution correctly sized to handle what your users will throw at it! xByte is here to help you choose the right VDI solution that meets your goals. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.

Contact xByte