What is VDI?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI in short, is a desktop virtualization solution that allows users to access their desktop environment from a remote location. Through hosting desktop environments on a centralized server and deploying them to end-users over a network, VDI provides users with the ability to connect to their desktops securely and reliably from any location or device, such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

In the modern workplace that is becoming increasingly and rapidly digitalized, VDI has become a prevalent solution for businesses to enhance performance and productivity. It offers businesses greater flexibility and scalability than ever before, allowing employees to access their workstations and desktop applications from home or a remote location and removing any geographical barriers so that companies can hire the best talent from around the world.

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

History of VDI

The history of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure can be traced back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it began as the concept of desktop virtualization. The goal of this was to deliver a user’s device over a network, separating the user’s desktop environment from its physical hardware.

Desktop virtualization began as based on server-based computing models, where a central server hosted multiple user sessions. These early solutions, such as Citrix MetaFrame and Microsoft Terminal Services (now known as Remote Desktop Services), allowed multiple users to access a shared server operating system. However, the server-based solutions at the time had limitations in terms of user experience and flexibility. Users had to share system resources, and the applications available were limited to what was installed on the server. To overcome these limitations, the concept of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure emerged.

Despite Citrix and Microsoft having the advantage in the industry, VDI didn’t take off until the late 2000’s. It was popularized by VMware with the introduction of VMware View (now known as Horizon View) in 2008, where it took a more individualized approach. This was achieved by providing each user with a dedicated virtual machine (VM) that runs a complete desktop operating system. These VMs are hosted on centralized servers in a data center and delivered to the user's device over the network.

Since VMware's introduction of VDI, other vendors, such as Citrix and Microsoft, have also developed their own VDI solutions. As technology improved, these solutions have also evolved over time, incorporating advancements in virtualization technology, networking, and storage. As a result, deployments have become more scalable, efficient, and capable of delivering a rich user experience.

How Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Works

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a cloud-based computing solution that utilizes virtualized hardware resources to deliver remote desktops over the Internet. Instead of having multiple physical machines running on-site as when using traditional PCs, deployment of VDI means that end-users can access their software applications virtually through any device with an internet connection.

The key component of VDI is the central server. It houses all of the virtual desktops so that the virtual operating systems function as if they were running locally even though they are managed by a data center. Once configured, each user will have their own dedicated desktop environment where they can access their applications, files, and data securely and efficiently without having to worry about hardware compatibility issues or other potential problems related to running multiple operating systems on one machine.

When implementing a virtual desktop infrastructure, a connection broker is also needed to act as a middleman between users and their virtual machines (VMs). Connection brokers are essentially software programs that facilitate the communication between clients and servers by routing data from one to the other. This includes handling authentication requests from users; managing user profiles and settings and allowing administrators to control who has access to what resources; and monitoring user activity on a network in real-time to quickly identify potential threats or malicious behavior quickly.

Finally, there is the hypervisor, which is a type of software that creates and runs virtual machines (VMs), allowing multiple operating systems to run on the same server at the same time and providing secure isolation between different VMs. It is responsible for allocating CPU, memory, storage, and other resources to each VM to run its own operating system and applications.

What are the key components of VDI?

VDI comprises several essential components, all working in concert to create a seamless virtual desktop environment. Some of these components include:

  • Host Server: This is the powerhouse of the VDI environment. It hosts the virtual machines that deliver virtual desktops to the end-users.
  • Hypervisor: The hypervisor plays a critical role in creating and managing virtual machines on the host server.
  • Virtual Machines: These are emulations of physical computers, complete with an operating system (such as Windows Server), that function within the host server.
  • Connection Broker: The connection broker is responsible for connecting end-users to their respective virtual desktops.

Types of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

  • Persistent VDI: Persistent VDI provides users with a desktop environment that remains constant across devices. Any changes made to the environment will remain in place even after the user logs off. This type of VDI is an ideal solution for enterprises and organizations that want to provide their users with a consistent interface that saves user preferences, settings, and applications across multiple devices. It also eliminates the need for reconfiguration when switching devices or locations. Persistent VDI is more costly than non-persistent VDI, but it provides greater flexibility and stability for enterprise users.
  • Non-Persistent VDI: Non-persistent VDI creates a new virtual desktop each time the user logs in, meaning all user settings, preferences, and applications must be configured anew each time they log in from a different device or location. This type of VDI is often used by companies who want to limit costs associated with storage space or those who don’t require users to have access to their data from multiple locations or devices. Non-persistent VDI is not as flexible as persistent, but it does provide greater cost savings due to its smaller storage requirements.

Differences Between Persistent VDI and Non-Persistent VDI

There are distinct advantages and disadvantages when implementing persistent VDI and non-persistent VDI. Consider the following factors before deciding which form of VDI is best suited for your organization.

Advantages of Persistent Deployments:

  • Customization: With persistent VDI, users have their own desktop image, allowing for personalized settings, stored passwords, shortcuts, and screensavers. This means that end users can customize their virtual desktops according to their preferences.
  • Usability: Persistent VDI allows end users to save files and personalized data on their virtual desktops. This is particularly important for knowledge workers who frequently work with saved files, as familiarity and the ability to save personalized data enhance usability.
  • Simple Desktop Management: IT administrators can manage persistent desktops in the same way as physical desktops. There would be no need to re-engineer desktops when transitioning to a VDI model, which simplifies desktop management processes.

Disadvantages of Persistent Deployments:

  • Image Management: Persistent deployments have a one-to-one ratio, meaning there are numerous individual images and profiles that IT needs to manage. This can become complex and challenging to handle if the number of users increases.
  • Higher Storage Requirements: Persistent VDI requires more storage compared to non-persistent VDI. Each user's personalized desktop image needs to be stored separately, which can increase storage costs.

Advantages of Non-Persistent Deployments:

  • Easy Management: Non-persistent VDI simplifies management as IT only needs to maintain and secure a limited number of master images. Instead of managing a complete virtual desktop for each user, IT can focus on maintaining a few base images.
  • Storage Efficiency: With non-persistent VDI, the operating system is separated from user data. This separation reduces storage requirements since user data is not stored within the virtual desktop itself.

Disadvantages of Non-Persistent Deployments:

  • Limited Personalization: Non-persistent VDI offers limited customization and flexibility for end users. Since desktops are freshly generated upon each login, personalization options are restricted. However, IT can use mechanisms to append user profiles, applications, and other data at launch to provide some level of customization.

Common Applications of VDI

  • Remote Work: The most common application of VDI is to provide a secure environment for remote workers. With VDI, employees can access their work computer from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. This makes it easy for them to stay productive no matter where they are located. Additionally, since the data is stored on the server instead of on the user’s device, organizations can ensure that sensitive information remains secure even when accessed remotely.
  • BYOD Workplace: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies are becoming increasingly popular among businesses of all sizes as they offer increased flexibility and cost savings compared with traditional workplace setups. With VDI, businesses can easily accommodate BYOD policies by providing secure access to their data without having to worry about managing multiple devices or ensuring compatibility across different operating systems. This makes it easier for employees to use their own devices without compromising security or sacrificing productivity.
  • Professionals with Multiple PCs: VDI can be used to provide users with multiple PCs with access to all of their apps and files no matter which device they are using at any given time. This can be especially helpful for individuals who need access to specific software programs or data sets that aren’t available on all devices but still want the flexibility of being able to switch between devices seamlessly. With VDI, users don’t have to worry about manually transferring files or re-downloading software every time they switch devices; everything is already accessible from any PC connected to the network.

VDI is a particularly useful solution for businesses requiring high-performance computing capabilities, such as graphic-intensive applications like 3D rendering software or video editing programs that require significant processing power and memory usage to run properly and efficiently. Utilizing a virtual desktop infrastructure allows these applications to run securely offsite while still providing a responsive user experience regardless of where they may be accessed at any given time.

Advantages and Benefits of VDI

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) offers a host of benefits for organizations in search of a cost-effective solution to improve their workflows. The main advantages of VDI include:

  • Mobility & Flexibility: VDI offers unparalleled mobility that far transcends traditional desktop computing solutions. With traditional setups, users are generally limited by where they can physically go with their devices; however, with VDI they have complete freedom when it comes to where they can work from as long as they have an internet connection and compatible device (such as a laptop). This makes remote working much easier and more convenient than ever before.
  • Scalability: The scalability provided by VDI makes it an attractive option for businesses that need to quickly scale up or down depending on demand. With traditional desktop infrastructure, adding new users requires purchasing additional machines and hardware; however, with VDI, businesses only need to purchase additional licenses since all the software runs in the cloud. Because little computing actually takes place on the endpoint device itself, you don’t need to worry about purchasing expensive hardware or needing regular upgrades. This makes scaling up or down much easier and cost-effective for businesses looking for flexibility when it comes to resource allocation.
  • Centralized Management. VDI allows for centralized management of desktop environments. IT administrators can easily deploy, configure, and update virtual desktops from a central location, reducing the time and effort required for managing individual physical desktops
  • Streamlined Application Deployment. VDI enables centralized application deployment and management. IT administrators can easily install and update applications on virtual desktop images, ensuring consistent application availability and reducing compatibility issues.
  • Increased Security: What many may not be aware of is that virtual desktop infrastructure can offer increased security. With VDI, all data is stored in a secure data center instead of on the endpoint device, so there’s no risk of local data being compromised. This makes it much harder for malicious actors to gain access to important information or to introduce malware into your system. For companies operating in highly regulated industries such as finance or healthcare, this is an especially attractive advantage.
  • Disaster Recovery: In the event of hardware failures or other disruptions, VDI simplifies disaster recovery efforts as users can quickly access their virtual desktops from alternative devices, minimizing downtime and ensuring business continuity.
  • Environment Friendly & Cost Savings: When the company uses cloud-hosted VDI, there is no need to have traditional desktop towers. This directly results in cost savings in electricity bills. Companies can use thin clients that serve similar purposes, consume less power, and help in reducing energy bills. There is also no need for any on-site dedicated server, as everything is managed on cloud servers. Everything helps consume low power and helps for a greener environment.

Drawbacks of VDI

Before implementing a full-scale adoption of virtual desktop infrastructure, some potential drawbacks should be considered to ensure that it is a suitable solution for your organization’s needs.

  • Complexity of Deployment. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure deployments can be complex to set up and manage as they require expertise in virtualization technologies, networking, and storage. To ensure the VDI environment is efficient, administrators need to consider factors such as user profiles, application compatibility, and resource allocation.
  • Network Reliance. VDI relies heavily on network connectivity, meaning that if the network connection is unstable or experiences interruptions, it can impact the user experience and productivity. For optimal VDI performance, an adequate network infrastructure is essential.
  • Dependency on Infrastructure. VDI relies on the availability and reliability of the infrastructure components, including servers, storage systems, and network infrastructure. Should any issues arise with these components, the availability and performance of these virtual desktops will be affected.
  • Requires skilled IT staff to manage. VDI requires a highly skilled IT staff to manage the infrastructure and ensure that it runs smoothly. If you don’t already have an experienced team of IT professionals on staff, you may need to hire or outsource these services to make sure that your VDI system is running optimally.
  • High Upfront Costs. A potential downside of VDI is the high upfront costs associated with setting up and maintaining the system. Organizations need to purchase and configure hardware such as servers, storage systems, network equipment, and software licenses in order to get up and running with VDI. Depending on the size of the organization, these costs can add up quickly.
  • Scalability: Before deploying VDI, consider the number of future users, as scaling VDI to accommodate a growing number of users can be challenging. Adding virtual desktops requires additional server and storage resources, which may require careful capacity planning and infrastructure expansion.
  • Performance Issues. There is always the possibility of performance issues when using VDI. As all applications are running on a single server or cluster of servers, any issues with those servers could potentially affect all users connected to them. This can lead to slower response times and degraded performance when accessing applications or files from the server. Finding an advanced and high-performance VDI solution, such as the Sangfor aDesk VDI Solution, can help you avoid running into latency and performance issues and ensure smooth operation.

Despite some potential drawbacks associated with VDI, ultimately, if set up properly, switching to a VDI system can offer convenience, flexibility, and massive savings in both time and money.

VDI vs. RDS (Remote Desktop Services)

While both VDI and Remote Desktop Services (RDS) provide remote access to a desktop environment, they operate in fundamentally different ways.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure delivers a fully personalized desktop environment for each user. Each VDI user gets their own dedicated virtual machine running a separate copy of the operating system.

This setup is more flexible, allowing for personalization and a user experience very close to using a physical machine.

The Advantages of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure 

  • Uses a single image, reducing costs.
  • Processing is shifted from individual workstations to a VDI server.
  • Troubleshooting is simplified due to a centralized system.
  • Enhanced data security due to the isolation of individual virtual desktop environments.

RDS, on the other hand, allows multiple users to share the same desktop environment on a remote server. While this shared environment might lower resource requirements and make RDS a more affordable option for some enterprises, it also limits user freedom and gives them fewer possibilities to customize their workspace.

The Advantages of RDS

  • Centralized maintenance point.
  • Multiple users can benefit from a single installation.
  • Reduced licensing expenditure due to shared resources.
  • Solid security.
  • Lower costs as compared to managing individual physical desktops.

Comparison Between VDI and DaaS

Even though both Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) are desktop virtualization technologies, they differ in terms of deployment models and management. Before making a decision, consider the following when choosing which technology is better suited to your organizational needs.

  • Deployment Model: VDI is an on-premises deployment model where the virtual desktops are hosted and managed within the organization's data center. The organization is responsible for deploying and maintaining the underlying infrastructure, including servers, storage, and networking. On the other hand, DaaS is a cloud-based deployment model where the virtual desktops are hosted and managed by a third-party service provider in the cloud. Organizations access the virtual desktops over the Internet, and the service provider is responsible for managing the infrastructure.
  • Infrastructure Ownership: With VDI, the organization has full control and ownership over the infrastructure. They are responsible for scaling the infrastructure based on their needs, ensuring security, and managing hardware and software updates. In DaaS, the service provider owns and manages the infrastructure. The organization does not have to worry about infrastructure maintenance and scalability as the service provider handles hardware upgrades, security patches, and software updates.
  • Scalability: Scaling VDI infrastructure requires additional hardware and resources to be provisioned and managed by the organization. This can involve upfront costs and ongoing maintenance. DaaS has the advantage in terms of scalability as service providers can quickly provision additional virtual desktops based on demand. Organizations can easily scale up or down without the need for significant infrastructure investments.
  • Cost Model: VDI typically involves upfront costs for purchasing and maintaining the infrastructure. Organizations need to invest in hardware, software licenses, and ongoing management resources. However, over time, the operational costs may be lower compared to DaaS. On the other hand, DaaS follows a subscription-based or pay-as-you-go model. The organization pays a recurring fee to the service provider for using the virtual desktops. This can be beneficial for organizations that prefer predictable monthly expenses and do not wish to make large upfront investments.
  • Management Complexity: VDI requires in-house IT expertise to set up, configure, and manage the infrastructure. The organization is responsible for maintaining the hardware, virtualization software, and desktop images. This can require dedicated IT resources and expertise. On the other hand, infrastructure tasks for DaaS are handled by the service provider, reducing management complexity. Organizations can focus more on managing the virtual desktops, applications, and user access rather than the underlying infrastructure.

How Does VDI Software Support Digital Workspaces?

VDI software plays a critical role in supporting digital workspaces by providing a platform that combines flexibility, security, and ease of management. Employees may work from any location on any device with VDI, just like on a physical desktop in the office, because distinct virtual desktop environments are created for each user. This kind of environment supports collaboration and mobility, two key components of today's digital workspace.

Moreover, VDI integrates well with other technologies, such as cloud, web, and mobile apps. This enables organizations to provide a comprehensive, unified digital workspace, enhancing productivity and user experience.

How Is VDI Implemented?

There are several steps when considering implementing VDI. Whether opting for Persistent or Non-Persistent VDI, the steps remain very similar.

  1. Assessing Needs. Consider the number of users, their locations, and the applications they will be accessing. Factors such as network and storage capacity, user performance and security considerations should be noted in this step.
  2. Setting Up the Infrastructure. Deploy the necessary servers, storage systems, and networking infrastructure needed for VDI. Creating the virtualization platform can be done through dedicated virtualization software.
  3. Creating the Virtual Machine(s). Create Virtual Machine templates that will serve as the best for individual desktop instances. Customize the VMs with the required operating systems, applications, and configurations. Ensure the VMs are optimized for performance and resource allocation.
  4. Connection Broker Configuration. Configure the connection broker, which acts as a centralized management component for VDI. It handles user authentication, session management, and connection brokering between users and their assigned VMs.
  5. Desktop Pool Creation. Create desktop pools based on user requirements. Desktop pools consist of groups of VMs with similar configurations. Determine pool types, such as persistent (dedicated VM per user) or non-persistent (shared VMs), based on user needs and resource utilization.
  6. User Access and Authentication. Configure user access and authentication mechanisms. Integrate VDI with existing directory services like Active Directory or LDAP for user authentication. Implement multi-factor authentication for enhanced security if required.
  7. Endpoint Device Setup. Prepare endpoint devices (thin clients, laptops, or other devices) to connect to the VDI environment. Install the necessary client software or configure web-based access portals to enable users to connect to their virtual desktops.
  8. Testing and Pilot Deployment. Conduct testing and pilot deployments to validate the VDI implementation. Test various scenarios, such as user logins, application usage, and network connectivity, to identify and address any performance or compatibility issues.
  9. Full Deployment. After successful testing, roll out VDI to the entire user base. Provision users with access to their assigned virtual desktops or desktop pools. Monitor the deployment and address any user feedback or issues that arise.

The Future of VDI

The future of VDI will continue to evolve as technology advances and new trends emerge. In recent years, VDI has been further influenced by trends, user demands, and changes in technology.

Desktop as a Service (DaaS)

In the last several years, cloud computing has been transforming various IT infrastructures, and VDI is no exception. Cloud-based DVI, also known as Desktop as a Service (DaaS), allows organizations to outsource the infrastructure and management of virtual desktops to cloud service providers. From a business owner’s perspective, this is an attractive option, given that this approach offers scalability, flexibility, and simplified management. In addition, DaaS played a pivotal role during the COVID-19 pandemic as it allowed organizations to transition to a work-from-home environment.

GPU Virtualization

GPU virtualization uses Graphic Processing Units (GPUs) to accelerate graphics running on virtual machines. This is used for industries that require the use of graphics-intensive applications such as CAD, 3D modeling, and video editing, as these applications require robust graphic processing capabilities. GPU virtualization technologies such as NVIDIA GRID and AMD MxGPU enable virtual desktops to leverage dedicated GPU resources, providing high-performance graphics for users. This trend is expected to grow as more organizations adopt VDI for graphics-intensive workloads.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Integration

Implementing AI technologies into VDI has the potential to enhance management and increase security. AI can be used to analyze user patterns, optimize resource allocation, detect anomalies, and automate routine tasks for VDI administrators. As a result, these capabilities can lead to improved performance, better resource utilization, and enhanced security for the organization.

Our Solutions For A Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Environment

When it comes to VDI solutions, our aDesk VDI stands out among our competitors. This one-stop VDI solution enables businesses to evolve effortlessly into a digital workspace environment. Its simple architecture makes it easy to manage, while its self-developed transmission protocols and GPU technology, in collaboration with Nvidia, guarantee a seamless desktop experience. aDesk VDI also offers all-around security, protecting your data from external attacks and data leaks. Watch the introdution video to know why Sangfor VDI should be the core of your digital transformation strategy.

Sangfor's VDI solution has garnered significant success, as evidenced by its broad range of case studies. These span a variety of industries, from healthcare providers to financial institutions.

  • Global Care Hospital is a private medical institution based in Abu Dhabi in the UAE. The hopsital has drastically improved and simplified its IT infrastructure when using Sangfor’s VDI solution.
  • Teleperformance Indonesia adopts Sangfor Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) to switch from a traditional PC-based workspace to a modern digital workspace.
  • Yamaha Motor Asian Center in Thailand implemented Sangfor’s VDI solution during the pandemic to enable remote work and enhance data security. This centralized data storage, reduced data leak risks, and simplified IT management.

Final Thoughts

As we move further into the digital age, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) will play an increasingly crucial role in shaping our work environments. Its flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and enhanced security make it a valuable tool for any organization. While there are considerations to keep in mind when implementing a VDI solution, the potential benefits far outweigh the challenges, especially when deploying high-quality solutions like our aDesk VDI.

If you're interested in exploring the benefits of VDI for your organization, contact our team to discover the possibilities for a secure, efficient, and flexible digital workspace.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Virtual desktop infrastructure can be beneficial for businesses across a wide range of industries, from education and healthcare to enterprises, government, etc. It is particularly useful for businesses with a mobile workforce or highly regulated industries like healthcare and finance. In the latter case, VDI helps administrators limit and monitor employee access to sensitive information.

There are a few factors you'll want to consider when choosing a VDI for your business, including features and functionality, performance, storage, security, and ease of use. Carefully evaluate whether a VDI solution aligns with your business’s budget, needs, and goals, taking future developments into account.

Sangfor's aDesk VDI offers a premium-quality and easy-to-manage VDI solution for businesses of all sizes. In addition to outstanding server virtualization and storage virtualization, it also offers an end-to-end platform with low energy consumption, reduced TCO, and exceptional security and stability.

To set up a VDI, you'll need to purchase a VDI software like Sangfor aDesk VDI Solution and install the servers accordingly. You'll also need to configure your network and security settings to ensure that users can connect securely from any device. With Sangfor’s one-stop desktop cloud solution, it only takes 2 components – Thing-Client (cloud terminal) and VDS Server to rapidly set up your virtual desktop platform. Once your VDI is set up, users can log in and access their virtual desktops from any location. 

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