Guide to calculating ROI from VDI

Cost analysis, budgeting and more

Virtual desktop infrastructure can decrease hardware costs, increase end user productivity and mobility, and provide more flexibility for applications and operating systems. But to decide whether implementing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) will be worth the price tag, you need to determine the potential return on investment (ROI).

Numerous factors go into calculating VDI ROI, including the cost of virtualizing workloads, purchasing or repurposing hardware, adding storage or network resources, and training IT employees and end users. Implementing virtual desktops isn't necessarily a money-saving opportunity, but figuring out the possible ROI -- and when you might achieve it -- will help you plan your deployment.

This guide to calculating ROI from VDI provides resources on VDI costs, ways to deploy virtual desktops in the most cost-effective way for your organization and the important factors that go into ROI calculation.

Table of contents:

Toolbox for calculating VDI ROI

Calculating return on investment from VDI
There are many important questions to ask yourself before moving to VDI. You need to establish what types of users you have, what applications and OSes you'll use, whether you'll need remote and/or mobile access, and more. Start adding up your VDI costs and calculating return on investment from VDI with these seven questions.

How to analyze VDI costs
It's generally accepted that the initial cost of implementing virtual desktops is about equal to implementing physical desktops (assuming you're reusing existing hardware). But analyzing VDI costs for the long-term is much more difficult. Ongoing costs include power usage, results of employee productivity, support and maintenance expenses. To calculate VDI ROI, it's sometimes better to use a simple, flexible model rather than a complex budgeting plan.

The confusion of ROI calculators
When you start calculating VDI ROI, you might think using an ROI calculator is a good idea. But vendor calculators can't always be trusted, and sometimes ROI calculators are more complicated and time-consuming than you really need. Try using your own tailored method for calculating ROI using three criteria: technical, operational and business justifications.

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Components of VDI ROI: Virtualization, storage

Control VDI storage costs with configuration planning
To strike a balance between VDI costs and storage performance, you have to plan ahead. Virtual desktops come with different I/O and read/write requirements, so you have to decide whether your storage area network will perform as expected. To determine whether desktop virtualization will be worth the cost of storage, figure out your performance needs, how many IOPS you'll need and whether your VDI costs will be similar to physical desktop costs.

Understanding VDI storage costs
Before you virtualize all your desktops, consider reducing the extent of your deployment to lessen storage requirements and cut VDI costs. Thin provisioning, tiered storage and data deduplication can also help mitigate storage costs. Finally, take into account the hidden costs of VDI storage, such as manual desktop provisioning.

Debunking virtualization and ROI calculation myths
Separating fact from fiction is crucial for calculating ROI -- particularly vendor plugs and opinions spun into fact-like form. Desktop virtualization ROI is easy enough to calculate in terms of cost, but quantifying cost benefits of VDI can be tricky. Remember that virtualizing any workload can add storage costs, and desktop virtualization doesn't necessarily eliminate hardware or reduce licensing requirements.

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How to lower VDI costs and increase ROI

VDI products with low infrastructure, licensing costs
Small IT shops often can't afford the high licensing costs of big-name virtual desktop products. To reduce VDI costs, you can use smaller-scale, workstation virtualization products that don't have infrastructure requirements and offer lower licensing costs. With an update to Kaviza's workstation product, Citrix now offers VDI-in-a-Box 5, an all-in-one virtual desktop suite that's cost-friendly and easy to install.

Virtual workstations bring VDI minus infrastructure costs
Storage and networking costs of server-hosted VDI can be too much for limited IT shops. If you're looking for offline support without those server-based VDI costs or client hypervisors, virtual workstations can help. IT admins can still manage desktop images from the data center, but be warned: workstations don't provide the best security.

Cloud-based virtual desktops can cut VDI costs
If you're looking for a way to circumvent infrastructure costs entirely, there is an answer: the cloud. Cloud-based virtual desktops eliminate the costs of implementing VDI on premise and investing in staff training. You can deliver corporate apps and a Web browser to end users without having to manage the endpoints, plus you save money in the long term by not having to buy PCs, CPUs or memory.

Making VDI cost-effective for SMBs
Smaller organizations can ease the financial burden of deploying VDI by using VDI optimization software to reduce IOPS requirements, virtualizing applications as well as desktops and using a shared or clustered file system. Increasing VDI ROI and reducing VDI costs for SMBs just requires a little creativity.

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