Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has long been hailed as a technology that helps businesses take their IT infrastructure to the next level. Often, ‘what is VDI and how it works’ appears as a common question in the IT community. It is mostly asked by those eager to understand the internal workings of the solution, and for good reasons. At its core, the platform stores desktop operating systems, data, and software on a centralized server in place of individual PCs. Users can access desktop images on practically any device, including laptops, tablets, mobile, Thin Clients, Zero Clients, and more. The system builds single images that are deployed to users and can be centrally managed for multiple tasks, updates, and troubleshooting.
So, why is it considered a cost-effective PC replacement technology? What exactly makes it such an appealing proposition? To start with, businesses that use thick clients face security, manageability, and cost issues that they cannot afford to ignore in today’s world. Conversely, virtualization simplifies IT, makes processes less costly, and delivers the desired optimizations which standard computers could not.
The solution allows companies to remain secure within a network by facilitating access to remote desktops, laptops, and operating systems. Compare this to traditional desktops that remain connected or bound to a single system. One loses access as soon as they are away from the system. This is where virtualization is a real game-changer because it makes 24/7 access possible from any location. Furthermore, it even caters to the needs of companies operating in niche markets and has quickly gained traction as a tried and tested solution.
Examining VDI Architecture
Before getting to what adopting the technology entails, we must understand its components to understand their role in a VDI environment.
This is VDI software which creates and runs virtual machines (VMs) on a host machine. The hypervisor separates the hardware into multiple VMs where each may be assigned unique OS, configuration, and applications. Next, the hypervisor forms desktops instances in these virtual machines. Each instance can serve as an individual desktop and be delivered to users.
There are two types of hypervisors available in the market.
- Type 1 Hypervisor (bare metal or native)
- Type 2 Hypervisor (hosted hypervisor)
Type 1 Hypervisor
A Type 1 hypervisor is a software that has to be installed directly on a physical server and its hardware. There is no operating system involved as the software is installed directly on the server. This is one of the reasons why it is also referred to as a “bare metal hypervisor”. Such types of hypervisors are known for their stability and elite performance because of the absence of an intermediary operating system.
Type 1 hypervisors are standard operating systems within themselves and virtual machines can be run on them. The physical machine on which the hypervisor runs only provides virtualization specialties and cannot be used for any other purpose. These hypervisors are costly and are mostly used by large enterprises.
Type 2 Hypervisor
Type 2 hypervisors do not run directly on the hardware of a physical host machine. Instead, they run inside an operating system. These hypervisors are also called hosted hypervisors. Type 2 hypervisors have a software layer underneath as opposed to Type 1 hypervisors. These hypervisors are generally used in small enterprises with a few numbers of servers. In this scenario, handling the virtual machines is easier as you do not require a management console. You can manage the virtual machines through the server after installing the hypervisor.
This software program acts as an intermediary between users and resources. It validates user names and provides on-demand access to VMs, virtual clients, terminal services servers, or Blade PCs from any place with an Internet connection. The program also closely monitors the activity level of a given VM and updates its status to active or inactive. Other functions include handling desktop provisioning, user role assignments, and managing computing resources within a single-pane-of-glass interface. The last applies if a connection broker is vendor-neutral.
Now, let’s look at how these support mechanisms work with virtualization.
- An employee logs in to their desktop from the client software and a connection broker accepts the request upon authentication. Next, the connection broker processes the request and directs the user to their desktop which they can view or access remotely through any device.
- The hypervisor creates multiple virtual machines (VMs) that host the virtual desktop. The former includes a High Availability feature that merges the resources of different servers. In this process, administrators can migrate the virtual desktops to another server if need be.
- One may turn the virtual desktop off if it is not in use. This makes it possible to accommodate a greater number of users than the true capacity of the server.
- A master desktop mirrors the desktop image to the other desktops. This is known as cloning and it comes in two forms: full or linked.
- In full cloning, the cloned desktops function independently and use separate disk space as they are not linked to master.
- When it comes to linked cloning, the virtual disk of the master desktop links to the other desktops. This saves server disk space and all user data is stored separately.
- The admin user can create, manage, and provision desktop pools and set up policies through VDI software. This process of pooling simplifies configuration for teams like marketing and HR that demand specific utilities and apps. So, the session established with a connection broker is dedicated to an available virtual desktop from the relevant pool.
Note: leading solutions like Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops and Amazon WorkSpaces greatly simplifies VDI management and deployment of the processes discussed above.
Going The VDI Route
Implemented correctly, one can gain several benefits of VDI that deliver significant business value. These include, but are not limited to:
Information, files, and images are stored in the cloud or a central location where access is password-protected. As a result, data stays protected even if a device is lost, misplaced or stolen. Compare this to a scenario where all the content is stored on local hardware such as PCs or laptops. In case of data loss, one has to purchase a new computer or laptop and start from scratch with OS installation. Things are different in virtualized settings because remote data centers store information with high-level redundancy. They are also built with dynamic infrastructure and effective disaster recovery features.
It is not uncommon to find users working on machines where the software is loaded onto the hard drive. This typically stores their files and documents on the same machine and perhaps, a server located on the LAN. Such approaches usually lead to data exposure and create security vulnerabilities in situations where these machines are compromised or face hard drive failure.
Conversely, in a VDI setup, there is zero dependence on the individual machine for computing power or storage. Instead, files, applications, and software remain safe in remote servers which makes backup and restoration less daunting. Also, in the event that a VM crashes, the others are not affected as they function independently on the server. This further mitigates the risk of data loss.
Businesses need not buy high-end user devices for robust IT performance since most of the processing workloads take place on the server. This also allows them to extend hardware lifespan and options like PC repurposing transforms outdated devices into centrally managed Thin Client Terminals. Administrators can then connect these to remote computers or back end systems and instantly realize the benefits of VDI client computing.
Examples include easy deployment, centralized management, and support for multiple connection protocols. SMBs that do not have the resources for a full-fledged virtual desktop setup will especially find this useful.
Endpoint devices that support VDI environments are designed to be highly configurable and flexible. Routine installations and upgrades can be implemented without user involvement, which automatically translates into enhanced productivity. Also, the ability to virtually create desktops by copying files and images and then instantly deploying them allows IT to make quick work of several projects. Moreover, because users are not limited to any specific hardware, it becomes easier to initiate BYOD programs which further boost employee morale and efficiency.
Reduced Lag Time
As discussed, powerful remote servers do the heavy lifting on computing. This indicates an increase in IT power and applications perform faster with reduced latency. These factors contribute to better response times, improved productivity, and massive potential savings in the long run.
Facilitating Remote Workers
Endpoint devices and remote servers create a strong network for accommodating remote employees. Every user can easily log in to their own virtual desktop hosted on their system. They do not lose the data or the applications they otherwise have in their office setup, and information is stored on a centralized server. IT administrators can conveniently manage, upgrade, and install various software programs on remote systems. A VDI technology setup is a feasible option for business continuity during unexpected events.
For example, many organizations are implementing remote work solutions during as well as post-COVID-19 to ensure user convenience and productivity. In addition to offering consistent and predictable remote access during these difficult times, smart endpoint devices like VDI Thin Clients and Zero Clients represent the future of work. Almost every industry vertical is expected to leverage these endpoints for digital transformation initiatives, enabling them to stay relevant and competitive.
At ClearCube, we deliver innovative and custom-crafted centralized IT and desktop virtualization solutions with the best interest of the client at heart. It is not a one-size-fits-all platform, and choosing wisely reaps tangible business benefits like no other. For further details, please get in touch with us today.