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The difference in the cost per desktop between a physical and a virtual machine is a product of the dedicated resources required to deliver a superior user experience for your VDI implementation.
Let's assume you are rolling out a VDI implementation, and you want to do it right. Let's also assume you've selected VMware View as your platform of choice. In general, to do VDI without cutting corners, you will need the following:
- A dedicated host cluster to deploy the desktop virtual machines
- Some form of high I/O storage or acceleration to support the IOPS
- Midlevel capacity for user-created unstructured data, such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF files
- Licensing for VMware View
- Licensing for the desktop OS you want to deploy
- Some form of profile abstraction software, such as Liquidware Labs ProfileUnity
All of that alone adds up, but now assume you need to stand up 120 users in this VDI implementation, and you expect a 60:1 consolidation ratio in your environment. That means you need three servers. Just doing the math on the back of a napkin, I'd say you are already at about $158,900 -- or $1,324 per user -- and that doesn't take into consideration whether your users need GPU or PCoIP acceleration cards.
Also, can you do this deployment yourself, or do you need to engage professional services to get things set up? As you can see, the cost of VDI can add up fast.
So, you might be thinking, "Why would I ever do this?" First of all, don't forget that this is only the Capex side of the coin. Most shops don't get the full value of VDI from the up-front costs. Rather, it's a long-term Opex play. VDI is much more efficient than PCs, so it's less costly over time. Secondly, you can look to a good consulting practice that specializes in VDI to help you customize the deployment to your business. In doing so, you can drop the cost per desktop significantly to the point where the overall Capex cost of VDI is close to that of physical PCs.