Virtualization has been rapidly and broadly adopted in the data center as a means to cut costs, improve efficiency and gain more control over IT assets. But adoption of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has been comparatively slow, mainly because desktop services have historically been maintained separately from data center services.

It’s time to view desktop services as a strategic asset. Indeed, in June, ABI Research said VDI solutions “are ideal for meeting two of the key challenges facing IT administrators today: providing data security and meeting the demands of the mobile work force.”

In addition, there are persistent needs in midsize organizations to reduce desktop support and management costs, enhance data security and disaster recovery, and integrate mobile devices into the enterprise mix.

Consistency and ease of management

Today’s higher-layer virtualization techniques enable complex applications and tools to be delivered in a modular fashion. The result is a higher degree of consistency in a desktop image than was practical just a few years ago. Furthermore, the separation of the different layers of desktop services—OS image, applications, user profile and user data—allows them to be managed, maintained and delivered independently as needed.

VDI changes desktop access from a distributed service to a data center service. The benefits of this are many and include:

  • Centralized management and control, which often results in lower maintenance costs.
  • Greater flexibility in terms of the types of devices (including smartphones and tablets) employees can use to access server-based data and applications.
  • Greater security because data is stored not on individual hard drives but in locked-down data centers.
  • Greater resource efficiency. Migrating desktop environments onto virtualized servers lets IT better match resources and compute power to the demands of the user.

VDI transforms a company’s desktops from a commodity to a valuable and strategic asset, based in the data center. That’s because the data, applications and services made available to users via the desktop and other clients are nothing less than business critical.

Further, VDI enables disaster recovery and business continuity capabilities (such as automated failover and backup) that have historically been limited to servers. VDI also supports the demands of an increasingly mobile work force by allowing users to access their full desktop through whatever device they are using.

VDI’s past challenges have been virtually eliminated by a combination of faster and more reliable networks, VDI management platforms and connection protocols, and more robust servers. The bottom line: VDI is effective as a strategic and valuable data center service.

Guidelines for selecting a VDI solution

Ready to invest in VDI? This list includes the most important capabilities medium-sized businesses should consider when reviewing their options.

  • Hardware compatibility with existing systems
  • OS compatibility with current operating systems (such as 64 bit)
  • Scalability in terms of projected business and user growth
  • Performance on servers and endpoints
  • Cost and anticipated ROI
  • Centralized deployment and management
  • Ease of installation
  • High availability
  • Security features that are built in, including password protection, strong authentication, and guest isolation
  • Support that is prompt and reliable

--Andy Nichols is an enterprise technologist at Dell focusing on virtualization, cloud computing and the next-generation data center.