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Five VDI technology bottlenecks faced by implementers

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), a relatively new technology, has benefited many organizations, given its features of easy deployment, easy reinstallation of desktops, central management, and energy savings. However, VDI deployment is not always a cakewalk. Two organizations we spoke to — Sterlite Technologies and Geometric — faced several challenges while deploying VDI technology. These VDI technology bottlenecks included issues right from creation of master images and user adaptability to data backup.  

VDI technology implies moving everything to a back-end infrastructure and managing it centrally. Though beneficial in many ways, VDI technology bottlenecks do exist. This article explains the VDI technology bottlenecks you could face during deployment.

High acquisition costs

Compared to the cost of standalone laptops and desktops, VDI technology is more expensive. When evaluating cost, it is essential to understand your existing infrastructure and the impact VDI technology would have on your environment. The best way to begin is to classify your users based on unmanaged, slightly managed and completely managed infrastructures.

In an unmanaged infrastructure, VDI technology would be beneficial as it eases manageability, with cost savings as high as 50%. However, if your existing infrastructure is well managed, VDI would be less beneficial, with cost savings rarely exceeding 30%.

Note that although the cost of acquisition is higher for a VDI technology solution, it does not exceed 30% of the overall life cycle cost. The refresh cycle for any standalone laptop or desktop is three to five years; compared to this expense, the management cost of VDI technology is lower.

User apprehensions

Geometric, a leading engineering services and solutions provider, and Sterlite Technologies, a global provider of transmission solutions, cite user apprehension as a usual bottleneck for deploying VDI technology. Sterlite discovered that while VDI technology helped preserve and protect the confidentiality of organizational data spread across computers, it also took away end-user freedom.

Nitin Doshi, who heads the IT and business systems function at Sterlite Technologies, says, “Awareness that data is stored in a remote server instead of on their desktops led to a fall in the percentage of private data stored on the devices. The realization that someone monitored their data made users anxious.”

Geometric wanted to enhance employee performance and boost their morale by permitting them to work from home. VDI technology made it possible, but at the cost of user privacy. “Users were a bit unsettled by the change, as they are accustomed to having their machines sitting in their cubicle, and having their personal data stored in the computers,” says Prashanta Ghoshal, Geometric’s director for IT solutions and services.

Design complexity

 VDI technology incorporates hardware as well as software. Processes are executed in an efficient data center rather than on front-end devices. Hence VDI is not a commodity like a laptop or a desktop, but a complete solution in itself, and the design complexity could lead to VDI technology bottlenecks in deployment.

Geometric faced a definite learning curve while deploying VDI technology. The IT team had to manage virtual machines and other VDI-related components instead of mere physical boxes.

However, Alok Sharma, country manager for workplace systems at Fujitsu India, recommends VDI technology for SMB players. “Today there are several VDI infrastructure bundles available. Organizations should opt for these bundles, which include the hardware, software, storage, server, front-end devices and licenses from the vendors,” says Sharma.

Creation of master images

With VDI technology, all user data is stored separately from the desktop in the central master image.  When a user logs in, a virtual machine that is cloned from the master image presents the user with his personal data and applications.  Organizations may face problems with the expected output while creating master images for different users, causing VDI technology bottlenecks.

“Every user department has a different requirement,” explains Sharma. “When you create a single large image for all the departments it looks simple. After implementation, it is very heavy to be worked upon. Hence you should use department-based images.”

Appropriate provisioning

Incorrect provisioning may lead to user dissatisfaction, and represents one of the VDI technology bottlenecks. In an organization, there are usually four different categories of users:

  • Task workers
  • Power users
  • Mobile users
  • External users

For instance, an employee working on a set of applications from the accounts department could be classified as a task worker. However, someone working on high-end graphics or R&D could be considered a power user. Mobile users are those who regularly work from outside the office. There are external users as well. For instance, in the case of a motor company, it would want to give its dealers partial access to information. Fujitsu’s Sharma strongly believes that VDI technology is not suitable for power users of an organization, but works perfectly well for light or soft users.

Other important implementation challenges

1. Proper sizing of back-end infrastructure:

Optimal integration of hardware and software along with the back end can be a challenging task. This involves the external devices on which VDI technology has to be implemented, various software applications, and back-end infrastructure required to handle the I/O load. As Geometric’s Ghoshal explains, “If many users boot the system together, it leads to a boot stop. So one needs to stagger it to ensure there’s no sudden load on the system.”

If you opt for VDI you cannot afford to have server outages as it may lead to loss in your business. Many mission critical applications run on the server infrastructure and backend sizing of these servers is very critical. Balancing everything appropriately can prove to be one of the VDI technology bottlenecks.

2. Anti-virus and patch management troubles:

Another VDI technology bottleneck that Geometric faced related to technical issues with respect to antivirus software. “We run antivirus scans in the night. When we run the scan together on all machines, it poses a problem, and similar is the case with patch management,” says Ghoshal.

3. User data backup

User data backup was a VDI technology bottleneck concern for Sterlite, as they could not decide on the type of storage for the user data. “We finally created a different drive for user data, which backs up centrally from the SAN on a daily basis,” says Doshi.


This was first published in October 2011