VDI is overrated!
This is what I thought during several sessions at Citrix Synergy event last week in San Francisco. Of course the desktop, Microsoft Windows most of the time, is very important for companies but I think the battle around VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) takes place at the marketing level… Addressing desktop virtualization is one option in the desktop management options. We (architects) need to be able to bring desktop virtualization to the companies who want to deliver virtual desktops, for specific cases most of the time. We will continue to deliver “classic” desktops (you know the “fat” one) because companies simply won’t go for 100% VDI as they won’t be needing it… Yet… Using VDI (Citrix XenDesktop, vmware View etc..) is part of the well known Flexcast model from Citrix. I like this marketing term because my customers understand that we will design an architecture which is able to deliver all types of desktops (except the “fat” ones in the traditional way).
Using VDI among the other technologies is fine. Sometimes I need to address a situation where a specific group of user need to access a full dedicated private environment (resources), and here is one question : Why the user needs a desktop ?
This is a question I keep asking to myself for some time now… As a CTO in my company (Activlan) I need to understand which path VDI is taking and digest the information to share it with our consultants and engineers by asking them : Users, you and me, why do we use a desktop ? We use a desktop to access our applications, that’s why ! When you access your application with a web browser, you don’t need to have a desktop, right ? When you’re using your Android phone, your iPhone or your iPad, you don’t want to access a desktop, you just want to access your applications, don’t you ?
I’m not a Google fan but I think they are visionary with their ChromeBooks. This is just a web browser, without any underlying operating system, working with wifi and 3g/4g booting in 8 seconds and without a hard drive… I think the real battle is more on the endpoint side than in the VDI product you choose to deliver a desktop you might not need… If you have a ChromeBook, I don’t think you want to access a Microsoft Windows Desktop to then access your applications, you just want to access your applications (Microsoft Windows hosted btw). Citrix saw it coming by planing to deliver Citrix Receiver for ChromeOS and allow users to access all kinds of applications and content hosted on Microsoft Windows operating systems. It makes the ChromeBook enterprise ready before it has been officially launched. (I think the web browser based operating system will change everything in the classic desktop world very soon. Firefox should do the same…)
Back to the VDI. If you plan your VDI project well, you should be able to address all the user-cases and give access to the right environment regarding the users needs, right? During this project you’ll have to establish a ROI document where you’ll write: VDI is more expensive than a classic desktop and hosted shared desktop (SBC, XenApp, RDS…) was cheaper than VDI as well. To deliver your applications you’ll be needing a presentation server, XenApp for example. If in your ROI (which you mentioned earlier) you’re able to deliver desktop, hosted shared ones, you will lose the VDI part away and drop down to less than 10% of users in the pure VDI modeling. Of course, now all the vendors are including the SBC desktop into the VDI model, so it remains VDI even if hardware and resources are shared between users. But still, we manage desktops to access applications…
To sum up, I think one of the reasons we still manage desktops is people are used to do so. They are using it at home, it’s easy and companies don’t need to train them… I’m guessing this is the only true reason left with the cost model… I could write pages and pages about that but I will stop here for today. I want to know what are your thoughts about VDI regarding Applications access.
PS : this blog is NOT about people who really have the need of a “true” VDI access regarding their specific uses. This blog is about 80/90% user cases I work with every day.