Implementing virtual desktop infrastructure is a big change for any organization. It almost always leads to significant shifts in how the network is used, plus VDI can really strain the storage and bandwidth resources in company data centers. If an enterprise is unprepared, its VDI efforts could get of to a rocky start.

The VDI 'boot storm' and others issues to keep in mind
Last year, ZDNet's Steven Vaughan-Nichols examined some of the common obstacles to successfully setting up VDI. These include:

  • Insufficient bandwidth: The key advantage of VDI is that it enables everyone to work more easily from anywhere, through the delivery of a consistent desktop. But once employees are working outside the office, there's no guarantee that they'll have Internet connection speeds that are suitable for an optimal VDI experience.
  • Bring-your-own-device security: In many scenarios, it makes sense for VDI users to use a virtual private network, which is not always easily accomplished if they're connecting from, say, a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • License and storage management: VDI licensing can become really complex on Microsoft Windows. On top of that, accommodating user habits can require large amounts of storage, while "boot storms" (everyone connecting to VDI within a short timeframe) push servers to capacity.

The latter phenomenon is particularly noteworthy, since it not only compromises the end user's ability to be productive through VDI, but also reveals which parts of the IT infrastructure are insufficient or at least unsuited to VDI. With VDI now a popular method for facilitating corporate mobile device usage, the boot storm can make it seem really out of place alongside native mobile applications.

"The issue with virtual desktops is the so-called 'boot storm" when everyone fires up their computers at 8 AM. As any PC user knows, a hard drive running flat out at 150 IOPS takes a couple of minutes to complete boot," wrote Jim O'Reilly for Network Computing. "A quicker boot time will be important for VDI, especially with most users having instant-on experience with tablets and mobile phones. These are becoming the endpoint for the virtual desktops to be displayed, and a long period to boot up every time the desktop is accessed isn't going to fly."

These problems are not intractable, though. Managed services providers can assist with desktop virtualization and ensure that organizations get the levels of storage, licensing and bandwidth that they need to make VDI work for them.

Data storage and VDI
O'Reilly also looked at some data storage considerations to make when considering VDI. For example, replacing some or all traditional hard disk drives with solid-state drives can provide the performance boost required for first-rate VDI. While SSDs are more expensive than HDDs on a per-GB basis, they can support many more VDI instances.

Organizations such as the Bank of Stockton in California have shifted their storage strategies to respond to surging VDI traffic. The bank used a combination of DRAM, SSDs and flash memory, as well as virtualization and decompression, to ensure that its appliances could keep pace with VDI usage. Implementing VDI requires new approaches to hardware, security and device management, but it is possible to get it right with help from vendors and IT services providers.