The business value of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

By Jacques Viljoen, solutions arhitect at Datacentrix

Today’s Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) or desktop virtualisation as it is also known, offers the type of technology that can provide real business benefits to South African organisations. But what is the best approach for companies wanting to derive this value?

VDI explained

Defined by Wikipedia as “software technology that separates the desktop environment and associated application software from the physical client device that is used to access it”, there are two main types of desktop that can be deployed through VDI – personal and shared.

With personal VDI, each user has their own desktop image in a one-to-one ratio. This is ideal for those wanting to personalise their desktops, as settings are saved in the individual image. When it comes to shared VDI, users share the same image in a many-to-one ratio. This means that any changes made to the desktop will be discarded as no changes are saved to the image.

There is no single desktop virtualisation type that fits every environment, and organisations can make use of a combination of personal, shared and local desktops to address users’ desktop needs. Application virtualisation is then used to complement VDI deployments, by delivering applications, on demand, from a central infrastructure. This is also used to deliver applications to local desktops.

Anytime, anyplace, any device

VDI offers users the flexibility to connect to their specific working environment remotely at any time, from any place and from any device, thus delivering enhanced productivity to the organisation.

Implementing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy gives employees the flexibility to choose the device they want to use, as the working environment is device independent. This further enables users to access the same working environment from their desktop in the office, laptop at home, or even a mobile device while travelling.

Good to know: Remote users will require a reliable internet connection capable of supporting high download speeds to ensure a workable solution. User data is stored in the data centre and can therefore be backed up to ensure compliance and adhere to corporate governance.


When it comes to VDI, organisations have the ability to deploy a corporate desktop to multiple users simultaneously and quickly. In addition to this, the IT department can make system and application changes much faster than with traditional desktops. This not only enables the accelerated deployment of new desktops and applications, but also gives IT the ability to roll back any undesired changes quickly and easily. Organisations that have already invested in server virtualisation strategies can make use of the security and disaster processes to support VDI deployments.

Good to know: Understanding the user and application environment is key to effective desktop image management strategy. It is critical to run VDI deployments on reliable infrastructure, as multiple users will be affected if the VDI environment is not available.

Going green

Thin client technology consumes only one tenth of the power drawn by traditional desktops, something that is critical in today’s heightened environmental and cost awareness, and radiates far less heat due to less moving parts. This especially enables environments with a large grouping of users, like call centres for example, to save on electricity and cooling costs. Furthermore, fewer devices need to be recycled, and VDI also empowers users to work from home securely, thereby eliminating the need to commute to a workplace.

Good to know: Going green is normally more focused on saving costs than preserving the environment, but VDI presents the opportunity for both.

Final points

The benefits that can be gained through VDI are far reaching, but it is important to have a solid business case in place before implementing this technology, as benefits might not have the same weighting for every environment. Understanding the users’ working environment and applications is key, but it is also critical to comprehend the infrastructure and IT services that will be will be required to support a VDI deployment. This is especially significant in light of the fact that many VDI implementations fail due to lack of understanding of the current and required environments.

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The business value of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)