In traditional enterprise networks there are servers, generally hosting files, databases and websites, and there are clients. Each client has its own operating system and stores its files locally and, at the discretion of the user, on a file server. Doing it that way has been fine for decades, but it’s less than ideal in a world full of desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. The typical client/server model depends on a consistent platform and interface, but businesses and individuals use so many different types of devices that it’s no longer beneficial.
Enter the virtual desktop infrastructure. With VDI, a central server hosts virtual machines — virtualized copies of full desktop computers — and users access their machines through whatever devices they wish. An employee can use a smartphone while he’s out to lunch to read the latest client briefing, work on a new presentation on his laptop at home and check his notes on his tablet before a client meeting, all without having to sync any files, because he’s accessing the same virtual computer on all devices.
How VDI Can Help
Helping users stay organized and access all their data on-the-go is great, but few companies would use that as the sole reason for switching their entire network model. It has to have benefits for the company itself, right? Absolutely. With the old client/server model, the IT department often has to obtain physical access to each device when it has a problem or needs an update. Keeping track of hundreds or thousands of devices and their problems eats up a lot of time. With VDI, all software is located on one server, giving IT staff the ability to manage everything in one spot. That also aids security, since all company information is stored in-house and servers encrypt every session with external devices.
VDI makes it easier to roll out new operating systems and bundles of software. If a group needs to access a different OS, just create a new virtual machine image and push it out to everyone at once. All they’ll have to do is log out and log back in. Backing up virtual machines is much easier than doing the same for hundreds of different laptops. A VDI system can take snapshots of VM images so users can roll their machines back to earlier states.
Making the Most of VDI
Solid State Storage
Hard disk drives are slow and hybrid drives, while an improvement, aren’t much better. If you’re deploying a VDI, you need the best performance you can get without sacrificing storage space. That’s where solid state arrays come in. Because they lack any mechanical parts, solid state drives can read and write information many times faster than hard disk drives, with no difference between sequential and non-sequential access times, a crucial factor for VDI deployments. Using a solid state array can completely eliminate user wait times during boot storms, keeping latency below 1ms for each user.
Another initiative that adds to the success of VDI in a company is allowing employees to use their own devices. Does it make sense to buy tablets or smartphones for employees when they’ve already bought their own? In a traditional client/server model, BYOD presents significant security risks. Every new device introduces a unique security hole for the IT department to plug, so it isn’t a viable option. But because VDI keeps all data in-house and all communications between devices secure, you can let your employees bring their devices to work or use them at home without worrying about compromising sensitive information.
Deploying a VDI can save your business money, recoup your IT department’s precious time and keep employees happy by allowing them to work from more locations and with their preferred devices. By removing much of the hassle of upgrading hardware and software, your IT department can focus on improving other areas of your infrastructure and supporting the rest of your staff. If you deploy a solid state array to manage your VDI’s data, your users won’t notice a any difference in performance and your company will be able to maximize its IT efficiency. With the benefits available to you, it’s hard to see why anyone would stick with the old client/server infrastructure.