VDI deployment complexity and storage requirements hinder adoption

The difficulty of deploying VDI, plus the fact that it doesn't always save money, means that another technology could eclipse VDI before it gets big.

VDI adoption rates are up for debate. Depending on whom you ask, you might hear that virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is common across all types of enterprises, or you might be told that nobody is deploying virtual desktops.

To help you get a better sense of where VDI is today and how it will -- or won't -- grow in the future, we posed this question to desktop virtualization experts:

Will VDI ever be mainstream?

Serdar Yegulalp: Most of the reasons people cite for switching to a virtual desktop infrastructure are easy to recite: cost savings, better security, highly centralized management, deployment flexibility. But there are plenty of good arguments that, despite all these benefits, VDI will be a niche technology or a transitory one -- something we use now only because something better that will eclipse it hasn't come along yet.

For one, a VDI deployment is hard to do right; it's a major undertaking. You need a fairly complex back-end infrastructure, along with a robust network and, of course, a good understanding of all the principles involved. VMware created the Rapid Desktop Appliance program to take some of the guesswork out of the process, but Gartner analyst Gunnar Berger has described it as little more than a 'VMware stamp of approval' program, not a true solution-in-a-box approach. The sheer number of variables in any VDI deployment all but guarantees such a thing might not be possible.

A deployment can also be costly, which is ironic given that an oft-cited reason for doing VDI is cost savings. Unfortunately, VDI seems to work as a cost-saving measure only when it's done en masse, at very high client-to-host ratios and in environments where you have the proper storage needed to implement it. George Crump, a VDI analyst at Storage Switzerland, has pointed this out in a discussion of VDI storage problems.

"In the broader market, VDI hasn't seen the same success [as in niche markets, such as call centers], a fact typically blamed on the high cost of supplying storage performance that's adequate to deliver a satisfactory user experience," Crump said.

There is little question that VDI has a place in many environments -- call centers, for instance, where the number of workstations might need to grow or shrink on demand and where the per-user resource demands are manageable. But it's more likely that something more efficient, powerful and flexible will come along to eclipse VDI before VDI ever becomes wholly mainstream.

This was first published in May 2013

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