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Uncovering hidden VDI cost savings: How to boost your VDI ROI

Dig around and you might just find some VDI cost savings you wouldn't expect. Remote access, server discounts and storage consolidation can help you increase VDI ROI.

Desktop virtualization can reduce hardware, support and administration costs, but there are other ways to achieve VDI cost savings that may not be on your radar.

Everyone wants solid return on investment (ROI) from an IT project, but virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) won't necessarily save you money up front. Still, there are some VDI benefits which, depending on your deployment size and management style, could lead to VDI ROI.

Aside from reducing the number of physical desktops -- one of the most common VDI benefits -- there are a few other ways to get VDI cost savings. Here's how to increase your savings through remote access, server discounts, storage consolidation and more:

Analyze a VDI cost model

To see how you can attain VDI cost savings, build a cost model comparing virtual to physical systems. Here's an example of cost study for a mature VDI implementation (the customer had been running VDI for three years):


Thin client



Average purchase price




Average lifespan




Cost per year




Support cost burden factor




Support cost per year




Total cost per year




TCO in five years




To determine your own costs and eventual VDI ROI, you must include the cost of the data center systems, software and implementation. In the case of this customer, we estimated an additional cost of about $2,200 for five years for the back-end systems and VDI software.

The numbers above will vary across different environments, but the general principles still hold true. The cost of supporting thin clients is far less than workstations and certainly laptops.  Additionally, you'll see a lower cost of support because you're likely to deal with fewer endpoint hardware failures, application faults and inconsistencies. Fewer failures also contribute to higher user satisfaction and overall productivity.

Support remote locations

More on VDI cost savings:

How to analyze the cost of a virtual desktop deployment

Guide to calculating ROI from VDI

Cloud-based virtual desktops can cut costs

Surprisingly, some customers avoid deploying VDI to remote locations because of support difficulties or because they fear the quality across the wide area network (WAN). Yet, the reduced effort in supporting remote users is an immediate boost to IT efficiency. That efficiency can bring VDI cost savings by decreasing support staff efforts and increasing overall end user productivity -- particularly outside the office. Set up remote access early, especially for users who report the most issues with application performance because of remote servers.

Delay WAN bandwidth upgrades

In IT, there is a third certainty of life in addition to death and taxes: New versions of applications will take up more resources than previous versions. This is true of network bandwidth as well. If you already have a private WAN with quality of service but are planning to upgrade bandwidth because of application demands, move those users to VDI and centralize their resources in the data center. Then, as you watch your bandwidth consumption decrease, you've got more VDI cost savings on your hands.

Use VDI for data security

In the field of security, there are two key areas of focus: information at rest and information in transit. The more mobile or distributed the information is, the more difficult it is to secure. A security officer once gave me the following analogy: It's like protecting your children -- it's a lot easier when they are at home using your home phone or computer than when they are out and about using a cell phone and laptop.

But, the cost of securing your information significantly reduces in a VDI environment because it consolidates computing power and information.

Here's why security can bring VDI cost savings:

  • Virus outbreaks are easier to contain, inoculate and prevent if all virtual desktops are in data centers rather than remote PCs. That brings VDI cost savings because it lowers the cost of administration, maintenance and support.
  • You can control Internet security at fewer gateways, reducing system and support costs.
  • Data loss prevention is simpler to detect and quarantine.

Basically, if you have more secure data and fewer breaches to handle, you'll have greater VDI ROI over time.

Use volume discounts on servers

Here's one you won't hear often among VDI benefits: Your server costs can drop. One way to do this is using volume discounts. Generally, profit margins for manufacturers on servers are greater than those for endpoints (laptops and desktops). As a result, there are greater discounts to be had if you purchase more. Because VDI shifts the purchasing dollars from endpoints to servers, you can drive down the cost for your servers.

Consolidate VDI storage

Besides the reduced storage footprint for virtual desktops compared to full workstations, there is also a reduced cost of network storage. VDI allows IT to consolidate file servers, decreasing the probability of duplicate data stored across file servers.

The primary VDI benefits come from a reduction in desktop administration and support, but you can also get VDI cost savings through reduced network storage, server costs and more. By targeting your strategy in business areas that will be most likely to get these VDI benefits, you can begin to recover the costs of your initial investment and work your way up to VDI ROI.

Eugene Alfaro
leads IT engineering for Cornerstone Technologies, an IT engineering services firm in San Jose, Calif. He has architected, managed and operated corporate IT environments for multinational companies since 1998. He has been a speaker on topics such as virtualization, WAN optimization, enterprise storage, Voice-over-IP and others. You can follow him on Twitter @ Eugenealfaro.

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How has VDI helped you save money?
high capex and uncertain opex and complicated migration and huge deployment effort...