Calculating the return on investment from VDI

Achieving ROI from a VDI implementation requires a well-thought out design, architecture and deployment plan.

While the idea of virtual desktops has caught everyone's attention, the actual number of installations remains small. Corporations that have moved to the proof of concept phase are still deciding if a virtual desktop infrastructure has a place in their organizations.

Two questions often asked are, "What return on investment (ROI) can a virtual desktop infrastructure(VDI) provide" and "How long will it take to achieve this ROI?"

Although many experts say VDI doesn't result in a return for an organization, I have found ROI can be obtained if certain criteria are met and if certain design considerations are made. To determine if VDI can create ROI for an organization, consider the following questions:

  1. Will the use case have local or remote users?
    • This affects hardware requirements. Will hardware need to be purchased or maintained at the local site, or will users use their home PCs?
  2. Will the end devices (desktops, laptops, thin clients, etc.) be purchased or reused?
    • This also affects the purchase requirements for end devices.
  3. Which operating system (OS) will be used?
    • The OS affects application compatibility. ROI can significantly be affected if applications can be virtualized and run on a newer OS without being recoded.
  4. Does the organization have Microsoft Software Assurance or a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement?
    • This affects software licensing from Microsoft.
  5. Are the users power users, typical users or light users?
    • This is affected by the number of backend servers, which in turn drives the hardware and software costs of the solution: The better the consolidation, the better the ROI.
  6. Which applications will be used? Are they all licensed?
    • This is where application virtualization can have a significant impact. If apps are found to be under-used, application virtualization can improve license management.
  7. How large is the current desktop and application support staff? Are they looking to make changes?
    • This question leads to an operational ROI discussion. If the operations and support teams are bloated, then VDI can reduce the operational staff or at a minimum, optimize their efficiency.

The answers to these seven questions often times determine if a customer will achieve any type of ROI.

ROI has different meanings for each organization and it can be developed based on the following criteria:

  • Software licensing
  • Hardware purchase
  • Hardware/Software maintenance
  • Operations staffing (administrators and build teams)
  • Support staffing

By taking the different ROI criteria and matching them with the answers to the above questions, you can determine where a customer might be able to get a decent return.

  1. Will the use case have local or remote users?
    • Operating staffing
    • Support staffing
    • Hardware purchase
    • Maintenance
  2. Will the end devices (desktops, laptops, thin clients, etc.) be purchased or re-used?
    • Hardware purchase
    • Maintenance
    • Support Staffing
  3. Which OS will be used?
    • Software licensing
    • Maintenance
    • Operational staffing
    • Support staffing
  4. Does the organization have Microsoft Software Assurance or a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement?
    • Software licensing
    • Maintenance
  5. Are the users power users, typical users or light users?
    • Hardware purchase
    • Software licensing
    • Maintenance
  6. Which applications will be used? Are they all licensed?
    • Software licensing
    • Maintenance
    • Operational staffing
    • Support staffing
  7. How large is the current desktop and application support staff? Are they looking to make changes?
    • Operational staffing
    • Support staffing

A return on investment from VDI can be obtained -- but it takes work to realize these benefits. VDI implementation is not as simple as server virtualization: There are many more moving parts in VDI and it impacts the end-user community. Therefore, a great design, architecture and deployment plan are vital to obtaining a ROI.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brad Maltz is CTO of International Computerware, a national consulting firm focused on virtualization and storage technologies. He holds certifications from VMware and EMC for many technologies. Maltz can be reached at bmaltz@iciamerica.com for any questions, comments or suggestions.

This was first published in June 2010

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