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With VDI you pay more, but get more

VDI is not cheaper than traditional desktops, but what you get for the money – high availability, remote desktop access, better security, and more – is worth the premium.

I don't know how many articles I read each day claiming that VDI is cheaper than traditional desktop computing. But I don't care how you slice it: in the vast majority of cases, VDI is more expensive to buy and to operate. Period.

If you think about it, this makes sense. I mean, people talk about all these great advantages of VDI, like higher-availability, the ability to access a Windows desktop from any device, better performance of three-tier applications, increased security since no data leaves the data center… These are all new features that you don't have with traditional computers.

But getting these great new features costs money. And why shouldn't it? That's the one thing I'm most surprised about. I don't understand why people think that VDI should be cheaper. Why do they think they get all those great new features with VDI and via some crazy illogical magic, it's also going to be cheaper? Nope! Doesn't work that way. Stuff that has more features costs more money -- that's a fairly universal truth.

Does this mean that you should skip VDI? Of course not! There are still plenty of valid reasons to use VDI. It's just that you need to understand that you're using VDI for the purpose of getting one of those new features (which is fine, because that's what you’re paying for.) If you just want the cheapest solution out there then stick with one of the traditional desktop models. And if you just need one or two of the features of VDI, there might be a way to enable it with our existing desktop hardware. For example, if all you need is data security, you might consider buying a fairly inexpensive two-factor disk encryption app for a few bucks per user instead of rolling out VDI just for that one feature.

So, this is why people end up paying more for VDI than for traditional desktops. They never replace traditional desktops with VDI on a feature-by-feature basis; rather, they design their VDI environment with all these new capabilities. So, they end up "level jumping" their projects, which means they add all sorts of features with an expectation of a lower cost.

By the way, if you want a VDI that's cheaper than your current environment, that's possible to do, but we're going to design it exactly 100% like your current environment -- no multiple hardware drives or redundant power. That's a VDI that would be comparable to a real desktop.

Don't get me wrong: I love VDI, but I love it when it's used for the right reasons, and unlike server virtualization, saving money isn't one of them.

Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog,, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

This was last published in April 2011

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