VDI stands for “Virtual Desktop Infrastructure”. It refers to a virtualization technology that allows users to access a virtual desktop environment that is running on remote servers in a data center.
Understanding Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
A VDI environment consists of a host server running virtualization software that allows multiple virtual desktops to run on that server. These virtual desktops are accessed remotely by users through a client device.
Some key things to know about Virtual Desktop Infrastructure:
- Provides centralized desktop management and control through the data center
- Allows desktop environments to be accessed from any location and device
- Improves security since data stays in the data center instead of endpoint devices
- Facilitates IT support with centralized data and apps
- Reduces hardware costs by leveraging shared infrastructure
Benefits of Using VDI
Implementing a VDI solution offers many advantages:
- Sensitive data is stored in the data center instead of endpoint devices
- Centralized control over security policies and measures
- Reduced risk of data loss or breach via end user devices
- Users can access their desktop from any device or location
- Enables remote work capabilities
- Desktop persists even when switching devices
Simplified Data Management
- All data resides in the data center for centralized backups, updates and control
- Adhering to data compliance regulations is easier
- Disaster recovery is streamlined with data in one secure environment
- Virtual desktops can quickly recover or be reprovisioned
- Automated failover capabilities to handle outages
- Load balancing across infrastructure improves uptime
- Reduced hardware costs by leveraging shared infrastructure
- Manage and deploy updates from a central server more economically
- Scales user resources up and down to meet changing needs
Components of a VDI Solution
There are a few key components that make up a complete VDI environment:
This is the virtualization platform that allows multiple virtual machines (desktops) to run on a single physical server. Popular hypervisor platforms used in VDI solutions include VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer.
These are the individual desktop environments created as virtual machines on the host server. They consist of an operating system, applications, files and profile settings that comprise a user’s workspace.
Remote Display Protocol
The remote display protocol enables the virtual desktop interface to be delivered over the network to endpoint client devices. Common protocols used by VDI solutions include VMware Horizon, Citrix HDX and Microsoft RDP.
The VDI client allows users to connect to their virtual desktop from endpoint devices through the remote display protocol. VDI clients may be fat clients installed on the device, thin browsers-based clients or mobile apps.
The data center infrastructure including servers, storage, networking and resources that support the virtual desktop delivery. Components must be robust and scalable.
VDI Implementation Models
There are a few different ways VDI desktops can be assembled and assigned to meet specific use cases:
The user is assigned a single static, always-on virtual desktop. All customization, data and profile settings persist across sessions. Provides the highest level of personalization.
The user is provided a fresh generic virtual desktop at each login. No customizations or data is retained across sessions. Useful for tight security control across a standardized workforce.
Each user is assigned an exclusive virtual machine that only they can access. Allows for greater user personalization and control.
A pool of identical virtual desktops is created from a single image. Upon login, users receive one of the available desktops from the pool. Useful for bringing down costs and simplifying desktop management.
Implementing Secure VDI Access
Enforcing robust access security is critical for VDI environments accessing sensitive data:
Leverage multi-factor authentication, smart cards, biometrics or tokens to provide users verified, audited access to resources.
Use VPN, SSL or IPSec network encryption protocols so all remote VDI traffic remains securely encrypted.
Add verified user session watermarks to VDI connections to authenticate and track all remote desktop activity.
Device Compliance Checking
Validate devices accessing the VDI environment meet security standards for OS, settings and installed apps before allowing connections.
Privilege Access Controls
Set user, group and device policies to restrict VDI access privileges appropriate for specific roles and data sensitivity levels.
Activity Logging & Monitoring
Log all user activity within VDI sessions and implement alerts for unauthorized actions for rapid response.
Choosing VDI Software and Vendors
Selecting the right software platforms and vendor partners is key to building and supporting VDI success long term:
Leading VDI Platforms
- VMware Horizon – Robust feature set and ecosystem support
- Citrix Virtual Desktops – Tight integration for Citrix infrastructures
- Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop – Simplified licensing model
Vendor Selection Considerations
- Experience & expertise designing/supporting VDI environments
- Breadth of VDI offerings aligning to use cases
- Support for latest protocols, GPU configurations & peripherals
- Ability to assess environment & user profile to architect optimal VDI solution
- Offering post-deployment optimization services
Partnering with specialist vendors that understand the nuances around virtualizing desktops is vital – particularly for larger deployments. Leveraging reference architectures and validated system designs can smooth rollout success.
Alternative Virtual Desktop Solutions
Though VDI is a leading approach to desktop virtualization, alternatives exist offering different architectures and capabilities:
Desktop as a Service (DaaS)
DaaS shifts responsibility to host desktop in cloud instead of client’s data center. Simpler to implement without large in-house infrastructure purchases.
Remote Desktop Services (RDS)
Enables server-based desktops and apps accessible by multiple concurrent users. Less resource intensive but allows less personalization.
Isolates and streams individual apps to devices instead of full desktops. Useful for delivering specific programs broadly without complex desktop management.
- VDI stands for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure – a technology that hosts desktop environments in the data center accessed remotely by users
- Provides centralized management, security and control alongside increased accessibility
- Key components include hypervisors, virtual desktops, protocols, clients and robust infrastructure
- Carefully evaluate software, implementation models and vendor partnerships when architecting VDI
- Alternative virtual desktop approaches include DaaS, RDS and application virtualization
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure centralizes desktop management while granting anywhere access and increased security. As a proven, versatile technology – VDI adoption continues growing across enterprises and regulated industries like healthcare and finance. With powerful capabilities around provisioning, control and asset consolidation – VDI offers compelling value. Architecting VDI alongside the right specialists and platforms lays the foundation for impactful success.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are thin and thick VDI clients?
A: Thin clients are small footprint devices that connect to virtual desktops through a browser or remote app. Thick clients have applications, OS and locally processed workflows installed for heavier workloads.
Q: Does VDI improve performance?
A: With dedicated backend infrastructure, VDI can offer increased, scalable performance over traditional desktops. But perceived performance also depends on factors like protocol, connectivity and endpoint devices.
Q: What’s better – VDI or DaaS?
A: VDI offers greater customization running in client’s own data center. DaaS simplifies management through cloud but has less control. Choice depends on needs & preferences.
Q: Is GPU acceleration supported in VDI?
A: Yes – modern VDI platforms integrate GPU configurations for accelerating graphics and media workloads virtually.
Q: How does VDI licensing work?
A: Client access licenses from hypervisor vendors cover VDI licensing based on number of concurrent connections or named users. Costs vary by model.
Q: Can PCI devices be passed through to VDI desktops?
A: Many specialized PCI devices can integrate with virtual desktops for remote networked access. USB redirection also enables this access.
Q: What are the most common VDI protocols?
A: Leading remote display protocols for accessing virtual desktops include VMware Horizon, Citrix HDX and Microsoft RDP. Each has proprietary enhancements.
Q: How does VDI improve security compliance?
A: Centralization, encrypted delivery channels, access controls and activity monitoring all help VDI meet strict security regulations more easily.
Q: Does VDI allow offline access?
A: Certain platforms like Citrix Workspace and VMware Horizon support productive offline modes for continuous workflows outside connectivity.
Q: Can VDI help provision bring your own devices (BYOD)?
A: VDI normalizes and controls access across devices with clean imaged desktops – making BYOD more secure and manageable at scale.
Q: How does VDI simplify cross platform desktop delivery?
A: Virtual desktops easily deliver consistent Windows or Linux environments to any device OS for simplified workflow support.
Q: What are typical VDI storage protocols?
A: Common VDI storage connectivity includes iSCSI, FCoE, NFS and SMB/CIFS supported by all major hypervisor vendors.
Q: How does VDI ease software patching and upgrades?
A: With all desktops centrally hosted, OS and app updates patched once are instantly propagated to all virtual desktops.
Q: Does VDI allow for load balancing and failover?
A: Yes, connection brokers and underlying infrastructure allow for both traffic distribution and automated failover capabilities.
Q: Can VDI help meet regulatory compliance standards?
A: Improved security, access controls and activity auditing assist VDI in adhering to strict compliance regulations like HIPAA and PCI.
Q: What are common VDI bandwidth requirements?
A: Minimal viable VDI bandwidth is 10-20Mbps. For optimal performance 100-200Mbps or higher is recommended depending on workloads.
Q: How does VDI simplify desktop DR and business continuity?
A: With consistent backup and mirroring, virtual desktop recovery is streamlined often allowing near instant failover.