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Why simpler desktop management should trump VDI

VDI isn't the only way to get better desktop management, and virtual desktops aren't easier to manage just because they're part of VDI.

Many people believe that moving to VDI will make desktops easier to manage, but while the end result might be a desktop that's more manageable, the reason is not because of VDI.

When you step back and look at a virtual desktop, you can see that it's nothing more than a form factor change. It's just a Windows desktop, but instead of running on a physical computer under a user's desk, it's now inside a virtual machine in the data center. The same is true for Remote Desktop Session Host desktops and client-side virtual machines. You can deploy Windows desktops in many ways, but at the end of the day you're just managing Windows.

If you do deploy VDI ... do so for the right reasons.

Some people say that virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is about simplifying desktop management because you use a shared image, nonpersistent disk, virtualized applications and redirected data and profiles. Let's take a look at what that really means.

First, VDI means removing the user's machine from his desk and putting it in the data center. Then, you're taking their OS, comparing it to all the other OSes and creating one image that is all things to all people. To do that successfully, you have to lock down that image. You are taking away their admin rights (this is a shared, nonpersistent image, after all) and not allowing them to install their own applications.

At the end of the day, you have a virtual desktop with shared base image, a locked down desktop, no admin rights and no user installed applications. Is this easier to manage? Of course it is!

But is it easier to manage because you went to VDI?

No! It's easier to manage because you locked down the desktop, took away the users' admin rights and didn't let them install any applications. Frankly, you could do that today with users' physical desktops for a fraction of the cost of deploying VDI -- and you wouldn't have any Microsoft licensing to worry about. Set some policies, install Deep Freeze and call it a day.

The point here is that good desktop management trumps going to VDI. Focus on managing desktops better in whatever way you currently have them deployed, so that when and if you do deploy VDI, you do so for the right reasons. Start by ensuring that you will satisfy some sort of business goal that you can't otherwise achieve.

Thinking you'll get a better-managed desktop just by going to VDI won't get you as far as you think.

This is one of the key messages of our book, The VDI Delusion, and its free update, The New VDI Reality. It's also the reason that Brian Madden and I are fans of persistent virtual desktops. At the end of the day, you're taking so much away from the user by moving to nonpersistent VDI that the user won't be happy and you're stuck with a more complex desktop management solution.

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