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When is a small-scale VDI implementation the right fit?

Ed Tittel and Earl Follis, Contributors

The technical implications of implementing large-scale VDI can be challenging and complex, but what about small VDI deployments?

Is there a compelling use case for small-scale virtual desktop infrastructure

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(VDI), and if so, what's the best way to approach such an implementation? For the sake of this discussion, we will consider any implementation of 50 end users or fewer to be small-scale VDI. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at how and why small-scale VDI might be a great fit for certain situations and requirements.

Pilots and POCs

Before you proceed with any production VDI implementation, it's a good idea to conduct testing via a proof-of-concept (POC) or pilot. That's a great use case for a small deployment.

Depending on the size of your IT staff and the funding available, your first implementation will most likely serve a small group of advanced end users willing to endure the joys and hardships of early VDI adopters. These pilot testers could be chosen from the ranks of IT or they might be regular end users. A word of warning: If you approach non-IT end users to take part in a VDI pilot project, be sure to get buy-in from the business leadership responsible for those people. The possibility always exists that hiccups during the pilot phase could adversely affect those users' productivity.

VDI for small companies and teams

Another situation where you might choose a small VDI rollout includes small teams within a large company that have a compelling need for VDI.

Examples include a company sales team or a team of doctors in a hospital who need to access a virtual desktop from any room -- or via mobile devices. In such situations, small-scale VDI can be a perfect fit. Citrix, for instance, offers small-scale VDI-in-a-Box software suitable for smaller companies looking to control IT costs, ensure software license compliance, and ease the cost and complexity involved in providing software support.

Desktop as a Service

If you need a small VDI environment, another option to consider is Desktop as a Service (DaaS). Thin client computers access the virtual desktop and installed applications hosted in-house through a private cloud or hosted externally by a commercial cloud provider. You gain much better control over the management and maintenance of your end user desktops and software applications. Software piracy becomes a thing of the past and software licensing and maintenance costs may also drop.

More on small-scale VDI

How VMware VSA could help a small VDI

Why scaling up can harm your VDI implementation

Complete guide to VDI planning for beginners

There are several established companies with attractive offerings in the DaaS arena today. These include Dell, Desktone and RapidScale, while other vendors are rushing to catch up. With increasing competition in the market, the business case for DaaS in small-scale implementations should continue to improve as prices come down and the number of credible players goes up.

End users will ultimately reject VDI if you do not meet their performance, availability and resiliency requirements. As you perform due diligence on the viability of using small-scale VDI, keep in mind that VDI is not a fit for every user or in every situation. It's just another tool to use when and where it provides a financial and/or functional benefit to your company. Be sure to choose a product that is easily expandable and scalable in case your small-scale VDI needs to grow to support larger-scale implementations in the future.

Using VDI in small-scale implementations continues to be a viable and even attractive option for specific situations and user populations. For a quick-hit VDI POC or pilot, consider using a DaaS vendor to keep your VDI hardware and software acquisition costs to a minimum. No matter which flavor of VDI you choose, be sure to plan, analyze and deploy your virtual desktops using a disciplined approach with clearly defined goals geared toward small-scale VDI implementations.

About the authors:
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus year IT veteran who's worked as a software developer, networking consultant, technical trainer, writer and expert witness. Perhaps best known for creating the Exam Cram series in the late 1990s, Ed has contributed to over 100 books on a variety of computing topics, including numerous titles on information security and HTML. Ed also blogs regularly for Tech Target (IT Career Jump Start, Windows Enterprise Desktop), Tom's IT Pro, UpperTraining.com, and PearsonITCertification.com.

Earl Follis is a long-time IT professional who's worked as a technical trainer, a technical evangelist, a network administrator, and in other positions for a variety of companies that include Thomas-Conrad, Tivoli/IBM, Nimsoft, Dell and more. He's also contributed to numerous books, including …For Dummies titles on Windows Server and NetWare, and he's written for many print and Web publications. His primary areas of technical interest include networking, operating systems, VDI and unified monitoring.

This was first published in September 2013

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Do you have a small VDI implementation (50 or fewer users)?

Ed Tittel and Earl Follis, Contributors
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