Why use virtual desktop infrastructure? Many government agencies have found plenty of reasons to do so, including supporting their increasingly diverse device fleets and reducing overall power consumption.

What are the main benefits of VDI?
With VDI, the computing power needed to deliver a desktop environment moves from on-site PCs to servers housed in a data center. For public and private sector organizations alike, there are several key benefits to this arrangement, including:

  • Heightened device and data security – hardware running virtual desktops via VDI is connected to servers through an encrypted channel. That means it is safe to grant these devices access to core applications, such as enterprise resource planning and client relationship management.
  • Streamlined system administration – IT personnel can worry less about having to implement complex mobile device management for smartphones and tablets
  • Lower costs – VDI can be a viable alternative to building entirely new applications and services tailored specifically for mobile screens. The use of zero/thin clients – minimal hardware with little to no installed software – also drives down electricity consumption compared to desktop PCs.
  • Support for mobility – teams working off-site can still access important assets by connecting to VDI.

U.S. government sees success with VDI implementations
Implementing virtualization and VDI have already produced real gains for the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Navy. For instance, FCW reported that the DOE conducted a 500-seat VDI pilot program that exhibited an excellent level of user experience and proved that VDI could also help trim expenses.

Going forward, VDI may evolve, moving off-premises and into cloud computing environments. More specifically, desktop-as-a-service may provide similar amenities to VDI, with the exception that infrastructure is managed by a cloud services provider rather than the organization itself.

Freeing IT of this responsibility could potentially streamline costs even further. However, there are still the core issues of ensuring that data is kept safe in the cloud and that organization’s particular needs, especially for bandwidth, are being met.

VDI and bandwidth requirements
For organizations that adopt VDI, it’s critical to figure out right away what is expected from the VDI implementation. That way, they reduce the risk of setting up something that doesn’t align with their goals and ends up running over budget. In many cases, these issues manifest themselves as poor end-user experiences or insufficient bandwidth as a result of “boot storms” (many users connecting to VDI simultaneously).

“You also need to bear in mind that VDI almost always results in a change in usage patterns,” explained The Register’s Trevor Pott. “Whatever your usage patterns are today, expect that VDI deployments will ultimately see more people working remotely, be that telecommuting from home or pulling down their desktop at a hotel or business meeting. You need enough [wide area network] bandwidth to meet not just today’s needs, but tomorrow’s.”

Handling changes in bandwidth usage requires careful consideration of VDI storage and networking equipment such as switches and ports. Managers also have to learn more about what types of applications teams will be using via VDI. While word processors won’t really push server CPUs to their limits, any software that works with graphics and/or video will significantly alter calculations of what kinds of resources will be required to ensure optimal VDI experience.

With the help of a managed services provider, companies can set up VDI that works for them. When VDI first became a hot topic several years ago, organizations were eager to use it as a catch-all solution, which led to many underperforming implementations. If aligned to specific goals, though, VDI is an effective, economical way to use the same applications anywhere.