Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDIs) are hype. But are they really a strategic element of IT? Or are they just a deployment option? I think that the answer is influenced by two major aspects:

  • Time and the maturity of Desktop Virtualization
  • The functional breadth of VDIs
With respect to the first aspect, VDIs today are more sort of a more expensive, more complex alternative to Terminal Services. Less users per server, the same (sometimes a little bit more advanced) protocol for remote desktop access, very limited capabilities to run the VMs locally on a hypervisor - VDIs aren't really mature yet. However that will change. We will see more deployment options, improved management capabilities, some improvements regarding performance (however, VDIs will always be expensive in terms of compute power at the server), and so on. And especially with different local deployment options (streamed, synchronized), the need for remote desktop protocols will disappear, mobile users will be fully supported and less servers will be required - without giving up advantages like the (relative) independence from hardware and some centralized management aspects (which are, however, not that different from other deployment approaches).

The other aspect is about management. Is isn't sufficient to integrate the management of server and desktop virtualization - and even adding storage virtualization management to that is not enough. Application virtualization has to be integrated as well. But even then we have some lack of capabilities:

  • There will most likely be other types of desktops for a pretty long time - the more specialized ones for "power users" and "knowledge workers", for specific user groups like engineers or stock brokers, and so on. It is not only about the 50% or 80% of desktops which fall into few standardized categories. The main issue are always the remaining 20% or 50% of not-that-standardized desktops. And they have to be managed centrally as well.
  • That requires configuration management and software deployment beyond building few standard images. Image management in reality is far more complex than just having few standard images. And not every application can be virtualized. Beyond that, we need several other elements which typically are found in Client Lifecycle Management today: Think about inventories and License Management. With other words: You will either need Client Lifecycle Management (CLI) or VDIs have to fully integrate that in the future.
In the future, a more complete VDI stack with full CLI support and optimized support for local deployments and mobile users might become the standard - even for older operating systems and non-Windows platforms. For the meantime, it is probably the better strategy to understand VDIs as one deployment option amongst other and to integrate all these deployment options under centralized management system. At least it is a good idea to be realistic about VDIs and not too enthusiastic.

So I'm a believer in VDIs - but I'm a sceptic regarding their short-term value for most use cases. What is your opinion on this?