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FAQ: Desktop virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructure

Learn about the pros and cons of desktop virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructure and when you should recommend these services to clients.

By Dave Sobel, Contributor

 

The demand for desktop virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) services is increasing. With so many virtualization products becoming available, it's difficult for solution providers to keep track of what is best for their customers. Use this Project FAQ to figure out the pros and cons of desktop virtualization and VDI. Find out how you can expand your offerings to include these services and get more money for your business.

Listen to the desktop virtualization and VDI FAQ podcast with Dave Sobel.

What exactly is desktop virtualization?
What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?
What is the main difference between desktop virtualization and VDI?
When would it make sense to use desktop virtualization?
When would it make sense to use VDI?
How can solution providers build a service offering around desktop virtualization?
What pitfalls are there when implementing desktop virtualization?
How should desktop virtualization be managed?
When should we not use desktop virtualization?
 

What exactly is desktop virtualization?

Desktop virtualization is the running of desktop operating systems in a virtualized environment. Products like Microsoft Virtual PC, VMware Workstation and Parallels Desktop for Mac are all examples of tools that virtualize the desktop for users and present an isolated operating system. Desktop virtualization decouples the physical machine from the software.

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is the use of virtualization to run desktops in a data center. The desktop is delivered to the user on demand and managed centrally, and it delivers the same user experience as a standard PC.

What is the main difference between desktop virtualization and VDI?

Desktop virtualization focuses on delivering a second operating system experience to the user, complete with GUI and an obvious separation of layers. VDI delivers a familiar desktop experience to the user while still separating the physical hardware from the environment.

When would it make sense to use desktop virtualization?

Desktop virtualization makes sense when users need a different capability for the software they have deployed. For example, a user who needs to run an older version of certain software would use desktop virtualization. Desktop virtualization provides many of the key benefits of a terminal server with added flexibility.

When would it make sense to use VDI?

VDI should be used when the user needs to be sheltered from the virtualization layer and the administrators wish to have central administration of services. For example, the need to centrally roll out desktops or offer desktops both in the office and remotely may lead to VDI implementation.

How can solution providers build a service offering around desktop virtualization?

Like many services, you can focus on projects as well as recurring revenue opportunities. Project offerings include setup and configuration of both desktop virtualization and VDI systems, enabling users to have virtualized environments. Service providers can also elect to deliver these systems as a solution, either on premise or as a cloud-based service, and offer this on a monthly recurring basis.

What pitfalls are there when implementing desktop virtualization?

As with any virtualization solution, adding a virtualization layer introduces a level of complexity to the system. The risk is in not understanding how to correctly deploy and manage both types of offerings.

How should desktop virtualization be managed?

Desktop virtualization should be managed like any IT system -- by taking into account all of the components of the solution. This includes the hardware, software and virtualization layers. You should ensure that all layers are monitored so that they can be managed.

When should we not use desktop virtualization?

Desktop virtualization should not be used in situations where the application requires direct access to the hardware layer. In these cases, virtualization would be inappropriate and another technology approach must be determined.

About the author
Dave Sobel is CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based solutions provider that offers virtualization, networking and security services to small and medium-sized businesses. He is a regular speaker at industry events and an active member of Heartland Technology Groups in the United States and Europe.

This was last published in May 2009

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