The ultimate guide to VDI planning

Last updated:January 2018

Editor's note

From what you have for dinner to where you live, life is full of choices both big and small. VDI planning is the same way.

When thinking about VDI considerations, IT has to decide whether it will host the back-end infrastructure in house or trust a service provider. Then, it has to figure out whether persistent or nonpersistent desktops are the best fit. After that, there's the question of what endpoints users will work with to access their virtual desktops. The decision-making process can be daunting.

This guide takes the pressure off by bringing the key details of VDI planning into one place, including information on remote display protocols and thin clients

1Can HCI help with VDI?

If IT forgoes DaaS and builds the back-end infrastructure itself, it also has to decide what hardware to use to power everything. One option is hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), which brings all the necessary network, compute, storage and virtualization resources into one physical piece of hardware. The obvious benefit here is that everything works in concert because the vendor designed it to do so. As a result, IT has fewer integration challenges to worry about. There are some drawbacks to keep in mind, too. For example, HCI is really only fit for organizations with at least several hundred virtual desktops.

2What's the difference between persistent and nonpersistent desktops?

With the back end set, the next step in the VDI planning process is whether to use persistent or nonpersistent virtual desktops. With persistent virtual desktops, each user has his own specific desktop assigned to him each time he logs in. This enables the user to customize the desktop and essentially treat it the same way he would treat a physical desktop. The problem with persistent desktops is that it takes a lot of storage space to preserve every user's customizations. With nonpersistent desktops, on the other hand, users are randomly assigned a desktop each time they log in. As a result, they can't save any of their settings or customize their desktops. Of course, this means that the desktops require less storage space.

3What thin clients can IT choose from?

Of all the VDI planning considerations for IT, the endpoints from which users access their virtual desktops is one of the most critical because user experience is so important. The market is flush with thin clients -- computer endpoints stripped of many of the components of a full-fledged PC -- for IT to choose from. Google Chromebooks, Raspberry Pis, Dell Wyse thin clients and more all bring something a little different to the table.

4How to get virtual desktops to users

VDI planning is all for naught if IT doesn't have the right remote display protocol to actually transmit the virtual desktops to users. The major players in the VDI market, including Citrix and VMware, offer up remote display protocols. Citrix has HDX and VMware offers Blast Extreme. But the market also has some open source options and third-party players to keep an eye on.