VDI for one, please! Delivering remote desktops to a select few

If you only need virtual desktops for a few users, you can provide VDI functionality for almost no cost and without any real design effort. It’s simpler than you’d think.

There are as many different reasons to "go VDI" as there are customers. Some like to enhance their security by keeping all the data in the datacenter. Others like the flexibility they get to "work anywhere" And still, other customers want to deliver Windows apps to phones, tablets and out-of-network laptops.

But one thing that's common across all VDI deployments is that going to VDI involves some pretty major efforts. Even with "simple" solutions like Kaviza, moving to VDI involves new architectures, storage, networks and security. In other words, it's a big deal. So big, in fact, that it doesn't make economical sense -- both in terms of hard costs or design effort -- to build a VDI for just a single user.

While this might be a no-brainer for you, it doesn't prevent your boss from coming up to your desk spewing something along the lines of, "Hey! I was at a conference and they said that I could use the VDI to access my corporate Windows desktop from the golf course on my iPad!"

And once those words are uttered, you can't really say 'no.' You're on the hook!

At this point, most people start to research all the various desktop virtualization products on the market. You might wonder whether you'll need a "real" Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) product like Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View. Or maybe you think you can get away with using the out-of-the-box "free" Microsoft solutions. Or what about the SMB-specific stuff like Kaviza?

Regardless of which option you choose, you're still going down the path to "full" VDI. You have to deal with new hypervisors and virtual desktop storage and Microsoft Virtual Desktop Access Software Assurance licensing.

You have all the headaches of designing and building a real VDI environment just to deal with one user.

But there's a better way!

If you just need virtual desktops for one (or a small handful) of users, there's actually a lot you can do to provide much of the same functionality for almost no cost and without any real design effort. In fact, you can have this "VDI for one" running before you finish your current cup of coffee.

How? It's simple: just use the consumer-based single-user "remote access" solutions. Probably the best-known examples of this are Citrix's GoToMyPC product for consumers or LogMeIn.

Both of these products are aimed towards consumers who want to access their computers from remote locations. But, really, they are very similar to VDI solutions that connect users back to their own machines. They have clients for Android, Mac, Windows, iOS, Blackberry and web/Java. It's all there! If you have a boss who needs to access his or her desktop (Mac or Windows, actually), then forget VDI! Use GoToMyPC or LogMeIn! You can literally get it up and running in five minutes.

And if you need to set this up for a user who has a laptop (which means that his or her work computer won't always be online and available for remote connections), then just manually build a single-user Windows 7-based virtual machine and put it on one of your production virtualization hosts. You can just let it run on its own and your boss has access from anywhere.

This doesn't have to stop with just a single user. If I have 50 users who need VDI, sure, I’m going to use a full VDI solution. But if I have one, two -- heck, even ten users --I'm probably just going to go this route instead.

Read more from Brian Madden

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog, BrianMadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

This was first published in June 2011

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