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.

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  • I agree completely. I wrote an article a few weeks back laying out all the steps to get prepared for VDI, but the first point I made was questioning if you even NEED it. Personally, I think SBC is the way to go for MOST users/companies…


  • Marcus

    Hi Stephane,

    ill think the only reason to compare VDI with SBC is incompatible software. There are some usecases for which VDI is great for example setup training environments. Even with the upcoming XenApp 6.5 which makes the Desktop even more like a Win7 Desktop its even more hard to argue the higher price of VDI compared to SBC.

    I think in the standard what we known as Desktop will change in about a few years. We seen with apple (ipad) you really dont need a complex desktop. I could imagin thin clients with android and Citrix Receiver to publish apps. Its all about apps, not the Desktop itself.

    It will be really interesting in which way to story goes at the end.


  • Hey Marcus,

    It will be interesting you’re right but we need to “guess” how things will turn out, I have my own company and we MUST take the right direction and bring to our customers the right desktop which fit their needs.
    SBC and VDI, VDI and SBC, VDI is SBC… this is just marketing BS, we now we can use SBC, we know we can use VDI, we know we can use other application virtualization technologies to leverage our projects.
    Brian Madden is right in on of his lastest blog (I won’t say he’s right every day 🙂 ) “The consumerization of IT: Why most vendors get it wrong, and why it’s a real challenge today. (Part 1)” It goes way beyond desktops BYOx and co. If we don’t change our mind, our way to bring the information and deliver tools users need, that is a big FUIT in our face 🙂
    I just like the FUIT, it’s so true 🙂



  • @archynet Post Edited: VDI is overrated http://www.archy.net/?p=2424 > exactly, this has been our message for years now, VDI is at most 10%

  • VDI is a “last mile” technology. With all the isolation/application Virtualization I almost felt like the industry was giving up on SBC too early.

    We see it fitting 10%-15% of our environment with XenAPP Published Desktops filling out the rest.

    Great post


  • David Gaunt

    You nailed it, 100%. A desktop just just an execution environment. A familiar interface to get to those key apps and as you say, 80% or more fit a xenapp solution very well where vdi can be used as a point solution where required.

    Right tool, right job.

  • VDI is overrated | ArchY.net http://wp.me/pmAHL-D6 < utterly brilliant post and @archynet nails the point exactly

  • What a post ! I totally agree with you Stephane.
    In my experience, there’s two other reasons that make VDI not the self named “El Dorado” of changing a whole IT.

    – One way to manage destop for a whole company is an old model of managing the IT and when you try to set up a 30,000 Desktops VDI project, costs are going mad and it is almost impossible to justify this change! The best way to answer to that issue is as Andy said : asking what do you need or what do you want to do ? That make me say : Education of what implies a VDI (cost and benefits) will be the key in the future for those project’s success.

    – Complexity of management is the natural step that follows a VDI project. If you have a multi platform environment (several OS, several application delivery’s systems, several ways to access to your systems, fat desktop, VDI destop, streamed application, published application,…), managing the introduction of VDI will become another heavy painpoint for IT to maintain coherence and consistency between all those environments.

    Is VDI overrated ? I agree when everyone is telling you that this is the next step of IT. With no education, it will become another fashion technology with no industrial and strategic plan in a lot of companies.

    VDI will represent 10 to 15% of the corporate desktop in 3 or 4 years (gartner) but the compenentized Desktop (desktop with the four layers indepandant: device, OS, Application and user) will be the major one.

    Long story short, VDI or SBC is not the debate to me but the representation of the actual need of the market to define models that actually fit to customers needs and the “one perfect universal model” does not exits.


  • Hey Jerome,
    Good points, “one perfect universal model” will never exist, but a mix with all the solution we can use to industrialize the desktop (aka application access point) are here today. When you combine all these technologies you can bring applications to almost everyone, everywhere and anytime 🙂


  • Hi, I enjoyed reading your article and don’t mean to spam your site, so feel free not to post my msg. Your comments related to Chromebook and access to MS apps via TS is what Ericom is all about.

    We have an HTML5 browser client for access to MS Apps and desktops as well as VMware View. And also have a much less expensive competitive offering to XenApp. Happy to set up a demo.