VDI 101: Frequently Asked Questions

If you wish to achieve business success with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) but need assistance in the decision-making process, you have come to the right place. With the technology widely touted as the solution to all IT needs, it comes as no surprise that everyone wants to know more about it. 

Enterprises new to the topic must familiarize themselves with the concepts involved in virtualization. While there is no lack of information about this platform, this is part of the problem away. Sometimes, the availability of too much data tempts companies into implementing virtualized IT straightaway without knowing what exactly they hope to accomplish by doing so. As a newcomer, setting your enterprise up for VDI success means that you need to know the basics first. 

The following is a guide to some FAQs ClearCube has come across in its years as the industry’s leading computer systems manufacturer. 

What is VDI?

The concept refers to hardware and software resources that run a desktop OS on a VM which resides in a secure data center. It allows users to remotely access their desktops from even handheld devices as the interface is executed at a centralized server. The technology stores software applications, OS preferences, files, documents, and other data on the server in the cloud. 

Simply put, there is no PC in front of you. Instead, there is a terminal or remote desktop connection to the secure VM, which is hosted and customizable on a per user basis. The end UX is similar to that on a physical desktop. 

What VDI benefits will I get?

  • Virtual desktops are known as a solid IT strategy that delivers several tangible benefits. The list includes, but is not limited to:
  • A fully monitored and managed virtual environment reduces or eliminates the physical hardware needed to run a business.
  • Virtual desktops are easier to manage as compared to full desktop PCs, and they offer superior graphics and similar performance.
  • Provides centralized administration and backup efficiencies. 
  • Minimizes cost and complexity of managing multiple client desktops, mobile handheld devices, and laptops. 
  • Promotes mobility by offering time and location-independent access to corporate data and computers from any device. 
  • Saves money on software licensing and individual PCs by introducing Thin Client, Zero Client, and PC repurposing technologies. 
  • Virtualization secures user workstations in a data center which decreases chances of corporate data being misplaced, stolen, or tampered with. 
  • Gives administrators greater control over the resources they assign to users. Through a hypervisor, IT departs can manage how they directly allocate CPU, RAM, and graphics processing to desktops and applications. These intelligent resource controls enable multi-tenancy and growing user demands, and allow organizations to make the most of their data center investments.

Which device will connect me to VDI? 

You have a wide range of options to choose from, including:

Thin Client

This is a small computer with a lightweight OS and it runs from resources stored on a centralized server. Thin Client endpoints use remote display protocol technology to communicate with the server. The protocols send display information from the server to the client, and keyboard and mouse input from the client to the server. Data, applications, and memory are stored in the data center in a Thin Client VDI environment. 

Thin Client computing is affordable and effective PC replacement technology which facilitates immediate user access to virtual desktops and apps. When it comes to cost, the price-per-seat of this endpoint deployment offers greater value than regular PCs. Other plus points include flexibility, security, easy manageability, and reduced energy consumption. 

Zero Client

A Zero Client is a server-based VDI computing model with little to no processing, storage, and memory parts. The device works through a central server that hosts the applications and OS, and it sends and receives computation requests across a network. Administrators often use zero client devices as they require minimal configuration, have no native OS, and consume less power even during full operation. 

A Zero Client device uses an onboard processor that manages a protocol such as PCoIP, Citrix HDX, or Microsoft RDP. This dedicated hardware is also responsible for managing decoding and display processes, hence allowing the zero client device to boot up rapidly. 

Thick Client or Laptop

One can repurpose outdated hardware devices like PCs and laptops into centrally managed and secure Thin Client terminals, which connect to backend systems or remote computers. Our Cloud Desktop OS offers this simple way to extend the life of IT infrastructure and saves businesses money on buying and upgrading PCs. Companies reap all the benefits of VDI, including easy setup, centralized administration, desktop future-proofing, and available support for multiple connection protocols. Chromebooks and laptop docking stations allow users to access their virtual desktops in the same way. 

Phone/Tablet

Employees can use phones or tablets to access their virtualized desktops. Note that some tablets offer a similar performance to high-end desktop PCs while other configurations may have limited output capabilities or lack mouse support. 

How do I connect to virtual desktops? 

Enter the remote display protocol. It creates a specific set of data transfer rules which a desktop hosted at a location displays on a client’s screen at another place. Some well-known names in remote display protocol technology include Teradici PCoIP, Citrix HDX, and Microsoft RDP. These generally use the redirection approach whereby specific content types are redirected to the client device for client-side processing. Administrators must ensure that the client in question is robust in terms of managing software and hardware. In this way, users benefit from a dynamic experience when it comes to multimedia content. Furthermore, top vendors offer solutions with adequate bandwidth to eliminate issues such as mouse lag in a virtualized setup.

Simply put, the best remote display protocols come with graphics efficiencies that make the most of the overall remote desktop experience. 

What is a connection broker? 

It is an important tool that maintains a list of all the available virtual desktops in a computing environment. Here’s how it works. When a VDI client makes a request, it provides the client with the connection information for the relevant virtual desktop. This typically includes the address of the virtual desktop and configuration details such as the communication protocol to use and its settings. 

The connection broker also gives a response when an appropriate virtualized desktop is currently unavailable. In some situations, there may be more than one appropriate virtual desktop. So, the connection broker provides a complete list of possible candidates from which users can make a selection. Other than overseeing desktop provisioning, it manages user role assignments and scheduled power on and power off times. All compute resources are managed within a single-pane-of-glass interface to simplify user workloads and allow enterprises to branch out into a hybrid cloud solution if need be. 

In short, the connection broker functions as an intermediary between the user and the resource. As long as your employees have a reliable internet connection, they can access their applications and desktops anywhere on-demand. 

For further details about how a connection broker works, you can always go through our Sentral Management Suite

What are VDI best practices?

There are some tips and tricks you should consider for a successful implementation, such as:

  • End-user demands.
  • Network and storage sizing.
  • Choosing between persistent vs. non-persistent approaches to provisioning virtualized desktops. 
  • Utilizing a thin client management solution. 
  • Ensuring high availability at all times.

End-User Demands 

Ultimately, the purpose of going for a VDI solution is to simplify IT systems management and deliver great UX. So, you must pinpoint end-user applications in order to evaluate the sizing requirements of the virtualization platform to deploy. For example, employees who implement dynamic 3D graphics rendering will need more feature-rich configurations as compared to those working with email and web apps. Other factors to consider include monitor support (including 4k resolution and multi-monitors), two-factor authentication/smart card requirements, USB redirection, printer/scanner needs, and audio profiles. 

Storage And Network 

A common VDI best practice involves designing storage and network requirements accurately. The network, in particular, exchanges application/user information between the user and servers and feeds the complete desktop/display experience. Let’s keep in mind that a VDI architecture consists of centralized VMs which run in a data center. As a result, the desktop display for the user relies on PCoIP, VMware Blast Extreme, Citrix HDX, or Microsoft protocol technology. So, the underlying network should be able to transfer VDI display data over the wire. 

The next step is to study how VDI traffic and UX differs between LAN and WAN connections. For instance, the proof of concept should not comprise of tests that only involve LAN connections. Administrators need to cover all aspects of virtualization performance when connected from both high-speed LAN connections and links across the WAN. 

Let’s move on to storage where you will be taking all of the memory, storage, and compute (disk IOPS) to match your backend environment. Apart from handling all the I/O performance demands of VMs, your storage subsystem should take into consideration any I/O storms that may take place. This is often encountered in situations where you have several end users booting, logging in, and logging off their desktop images overwhelm the storage system. In any case, do not saturate the VDI storage because this can lead to performance issues. Use all-flash SAN arrays and software-defined storage like vSAN to reduce problems related to I/O storms. 

Persistent vs. Non-Persistent  

There are two forms of virtualized systems: persistent and non-persistent. Persistent refers to users being able to customize their desktops after which the technology saves and stores the changes. You have a single workstation that is assigned to a specific user, and they always receive the same virtual desktop each time they log in. For administrators, this is similar to managing physical infrastructure. 

Non-persistent involves a user accessing a virtualized desktop from a group of shared resources created from a ‘gold’ virtual desktop image, and there is no personalization. This is preferable from a management and storage viewpoint because there is just one ‘gold’ image to maintain. Also, IT can recycle provisioned virtualized desktops when the user logs off. 

Thin Client Management Solution  

You can configure low-cost, lightweight Thin Client devices with minimum internal hardware and a stripped-down OS for your deployment. If this appears to be a big investment, an alternative is to repurpose outdated hardware devices like laptops and PCs into secure and centrally managed Thin Client terminals. These can then be connected to a remote computer or backend system, and users automatically realize all the benefits that come with a full-fledged virtualization setup. 

Also, consider our EndPoint Manager Software which configures, scales, and provisions Thin Client deployments in Windows 10 IoT environments. This enables IT to easily manage several profiles for device groups, endpoint and server connections, device imaging, and pre-boot OS authentication with enterprise-grade security protocols. 

You can also choose our Sentral management software which supports virtualization initiatives and centralized desktop infrastructure (CDI) deployments backed by Thin Clients. Its connection brokering capability maps connection routes from Thin Client endpoints via network switches to host Linux and Windows-based resources. The Element Manager offers different layers of management of Thin Client devices and VDI hosts through a single, unified console single-pane-of-glass view. 

All these are robust, integrated solutions that facilitate remote management and automated configuration of Thin Client devices. 

High Availability 

User desktops depend on the availability of the backend VDI solution. So, it is important to create sufficient hosts in the cluster and have redundant data paths to network and storage connections. Utilize a good hypervisor and storage platform to address any concerns that may arise when implementing a native VDI solution for employee desktops. 

Final Remarks 

At the end of the day, it is all about proper planning and thorough testing which can only be achieved with a great Proof of Concept. Also, we recommend you to work with an experienced vendor capable of delivering exactly the results you expect. 

For further details, please visit our website or contact our team.

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