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Keep the cost of VDI in check

VDI costs are coming down thanks in large part to the growth of hyper-converged infrastructure and the availability of inexpensive thin clients and open source options.

For years, the popular sentiment among many IT professionals was that the cost of VDI is just too darn high. But the tide is turning. If IT knows where to look, it can actually create a quality VDI deployment without busting its budget.

The change is, in large part, thanks to some technological advances. All-flash storage, for example, is less expensive than ever. Its features, such as data compression and deduplication, can lead to major savings in the long run. The rise of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and inexpensive thin clients has also helped drive down prices.

There's no avoiding upfront VDI costs, such as purchasing the infrastructure and setting everything up, but price doesn't have to stand in the way of a potentially beneficial deployment.

How HCI reduces the cost of VDI

HCI, which brings compute, storage, networking and virtualization resources into one software-defined piece of hardware, can save VDI shops time and money in a variety of ways.

It may be better in the long term to purchase thin clients for users.

HCI is simpler to shop for, which saves time and money. Instead of searching for the right pieces of hardware and software, IT just has to find one appliance that does it all. (This approach limits choice and customizability to some degree, however.) Additionally, IT can get HCI up and running in days or even hours, rather than the weeks and months it can take to bring a host of disparate systems together.

From an operational perspective, HCI also reduces the cost of VDI. One way is by simplifying management, because one piece of hardware contains everything.

An HCI appliance comes from a single vendor, which can reduce support costs because IT administrators don't have to worry about understanding one vendor's storage hardware and another vendor's networking hardware, for example. Several HCI vendors even automate updates to the hypervisor and virtualization software so IT doesn't have to waste time on that either.

HCI is also easy to scale. If IT needs to add more compute capacity, for example, it just purchases another node and adds it to the HCI appliance. If organizations invest in high-end nodes, they can improve virtual desktop density, which may save money in the long run because they will have to buy new nodes less frequently.

Can IT save money on endpoints?

IT has several options for reducing the cost of VDI when it comes to endpoints. One move is to repurpose old PCs. This approach might not be the best way to save money, however, because IT still has to maintain, patch and update the OSes on those devices.

It may be better in the long term to purchase thin clients for users. There are a host of inexpensive thin clients IT can use for VDI. Some models of the Google Chromebook, such as the Acer Chromebook C740, for example, range between $150 and $400 and reduce maintenance and management costs over the long haul by automating tasks such as patching antivirus software and running security audits. Raspberry Pi devices are even cheaper, checking in at under $50 in some cases, and are great for users who do simple tasks, such as data entry. Some other options include thin clients from Dell Wyse, IGEL Technology, Lenovo and HP Inc.

What other steps can IT take to reduce VDI costs?

Desktop as a service (DaaS) allows IT to gain the benefits of VDI without having to shell out upfront money on infrastructure. With DaaS, IT outsources the actual infrastructure and some of the management tasks to a cloud provider. Organizations pay for only what they need, which helps prevent overspending. But they have to pay these subscription fees for as long as they use DaaS, and those costs can add up over time.

IT can also turn to open source OSes and hypervisors to reduce the cost of VDI. Linux, for example, is a free OS IT can use with VDI. Application compatibility problems, as well as issues with security and compliance, can come into play with open source options, however.

Next Steps

VDI vendor lock-in is not so bad

What's holding back DaaS from widespread adoption

Why HCI fits with VDI

Examine five top thin client options

This was last published in December 2017

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