SAN FRANCISCO, 5 JANUARY 2011 - Ever since VMware coined the term, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has conjured images of large data centers, beefy servers, centralized storage, and complex software stacks. It's a given that each VDI installation requires numerous servers, software packages, and storage systems in order to provide desktop virtualization for more than a small handful of users, so VDI just has to be both expensive and complicated to deploy. Right?
As I found out while evaluating three entry-level VDI bundles, this doesn't have to be the case. My goal was to find out just how much -- or how little -- was needed to provide a scalable virtualized desktop system for up to 50 users. As with just about all matters computer related, there are many ways to skin a virtualized cat, and some will fit into an existing network infrastructure better than others.
The VDI products I tested are Kaviza VDI-in-a-box, NComputing vSpace and L-Series endpoint devices, and Pano Logic's Pano Express. All three provide centrally hosted, general-purpose desktops to end-users for less than $500 per seat. With all three products, I was able to connect to Windows XP Pro or Windows 7 Pro desktops hosted on a single piece of hardware -- no network storage necessary. While all three solutions set up easily, worked well, and will meet the needs for about 80 percent of businesses, each one did have some shortcomings. IT organizations will have to carefully evaluate any potential solution to make sure it fits in with their use case.
In general, even the simplest VDI solution is made up of five components: a connection broker, a remote access protocol, a back-end virtualization platform, a storage system, and client devices. The VDI solutions reviewed here addressed these components a bit differently, and these variations will be key to choosing which among them is the best fit for your organization. Each solution overlaps another in some areas, but they all have a feature or two that make them unique.
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