Low on Windows apps? Go for nonpersistent desktops

If you don't have to support a lot of Windows applications, nonpersistent desktops make a lot of sense.

The fewer Windows apps you need, the more nonpersistent desktops make sense.

I'm often asked about persistent versus nonpersistent desktops, and though I take a less forceful position than others, I typically fall on the persistent side of the fence. The benefits of persistent desktops outweigh the complexities of delivering nonpersistent desktops.

Nonpersistent VDI environments require complex application management practices, often involving application virtualization or layering to get the job done. At the end of the day, most organizations could have achieved similar results with less infrastructure costs, less licensing costs and less time by using a Remote Desktop Session Host-based system.

Nevertheless, the allure of nonpersistent VDI still exists. If I were asked which approach (nonpersistent VDI or RDSH) I'd like to use based simply on the OS experience, of course I'd pick the client OS that can only be delivered with VDI. Plus, managing Windows 7 virtual desktops doesn't require any significantly different skills than managing physical ones. Costs are coming down for VDI with the infusion of new storage technologies devoted to desktop virtualization, too. All that adds up to a more appealing solution compared to RDSH, but it's still not enough for nonpersistent desktops to be the default method.

There are several reasons I prefer persistent desktops, such as image management, but the applications are the primary reason I'm inclined to avoid nonpersistent. But what if the number of Windows apps in the organization is relatively few? If that's the case, things start to change a bit.

More on nonpersistent VDI

Why VDI should be persistent

How persistence affects security

Shared vs. personal disks: Which require more resources?

Admins want persistent desktops because they want the user's application and user interface experience to be the same across the board -- and they don't want to complicate management. Persistent desktops are managed, for the most part, the same as physical desktops. Plus, you're used to dealing with Windows.

Companies whose line of business applications is primarily delivered via the browser or who don't have a large number of Windows applications to support are somewhat immune to this problem. That opens up new opportunities for them to deploy nonpersistent VDI in a less complex manner. It's why solutions that are targeted for small and medium-sized businesses are typically nonpersistent: There just aren't that many apps getting in the way of a successful VDI project.

This doesn't mean I'm changing my tune. The best way to go in the typical large enterprise environment with lots of apps is to use persistent VDI for complex scenarios and RDSH for less complex ones. It all comes down to use case, and no sweeping declaration or comparison to other companies can tell you what you should do in yours.

Each situation is different, so there could very well be cases where there aren't many Windows applications needed and where the ones that exist are either part of the base image or easily packaged, which could be appropriate for nonpersistent VDI.

This was first published in October 2013

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