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Desktop Virtualization: Why implement it?

Today’s cloud-centered business world demands maximum mobility from businesses and individual staffers. Corporations gravitate towards fully remote or hybrid work models and expect their employees to be work-ready wherever they are. That is why desktop virtualization technology has recently become such a hot topic.

What is Desktop Virtualization?

Desktop virtualization allows creating and storing different user desktop instances on a single host, living in a data center or the cloud. It is achieved by using a hypervisor (virtual machine monitor), which lives on top of the host server hardware to run and allows virtual desktops to use the computing power of the basic server hardware. The hypervisor produces VMs that simulate the user’s desktop environments, which can hold multiple operating systems, applications, personalized settings, and user data. It can be accessed from a remotely connected device from anywhere with a connection to a network using any laptop, smartphone, or desktop. All user data and programs live in the desktop virtualization server, not on client devices.

desktop virtualization

How does it work?

Desktop virtualization works by employing hardware virtualization technology. Virtual desktops exist as VMs, running on a virtualization host. These VMs share the host server’s processing power, memory, and other resources.

Users typically run a remote desktop protocol (RDP) client to access the virtual desktop environment. This client attaches to a connection broker that links the user’s session to a virtual desktop. Typically, virtual desktops are nonpersistent, meaning the connection broker assigns the user a random virtual desktop from a virtual desktop pool. When the user logs out, this virtual desktop resets to a pristine, unchanged state and returns to the pool. However, some vendors offer an option to create persistent virtual desktops, in which users receive their own writable virtual desktops.

What are the benefits?

  • Resource Utilization: Since IT resources for desktop virtualization are concentrated in a data center, resources are pooled for efficiency. The need to push OS and application updates to end-user devices is eliminated, and virtually any desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone can access virtualized desktop applications. IT organizations can thus deploy less powerful and less expensive client devices since they are basically only used for input and output.
  • Remote Workforce Enablement: Since each virtual desktop resides in central servers, new user desktops can be provisioned in minutes and become instantly available for new users to access. Additionally, IT support resources can focus on issues on the virtualization servers with little regard to the actual end-user device being used to access the virtual desktop. Finally, since all applications are served to the client over a network, users can access their business applications virtually anywhere there is internet connectivity. If a user leaves the organization, the resources that were used for their virtual desktop can then be returned to centrally pooled infrastructure.
  • Security: IT professionals rate security as their biggest challenge year after year. By removing OS and application concerns from user devices, desktop virtualization enables centralized security control, with hardware security needing to be limited to virtualization servers and an emphasis on identity and access management with role-based permissions that limit users only to those applications and data they are authorized to access. Additionally, if an employee leaves an organization there is no need to remove applications and data from user devices; any data on the user device is ephemeral by design and does not persist when a virtual desktop session ends.

Types of Desktop Virtualization

The three most popular deployment models of desktop virtualization are:

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

A virtual desktop interface (VDI) uses host-based virtual machines (VMs) to run the operating system. It delivers non-persistent and persistent virtual desktops to all connected devices. With a non-persistent virtual desktop, employees can access a virtual desktop from a shared pool, whereas in a persistent virtual desktop, each user gets a unique desktop image that can be customized with data and applications. VDI gives each user their virtual machine and supports only one user per operating system.

Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

Remote desktop services (RDS) or remote desktop session hosts (RDSH) are beneficial where only limited applications require virtualization. They allow users to remotely access Windows applications and desktops using the Microsoft Windows Server operating system. RDS is a more cost-effective solution since one Windows server can support multiple users.

Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS)

Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) is a flexible desktop virtualization solution that uses cloud-based virtual machines backed by a third-party provider. Using DaaS, organizations can outsource desktop virtualization solutions that help a user access computer applications and desktops from any endpoint platform or device.

desktop virtualization

Key tips when choosing a Desktop Virtualization solution

  • Determine your business capabilities by asking yourself whether you have adequate expertise, resources, and the need to mount VDI, RDS, or DaaS. Then base your decision on your evaluation.
  • Cost is always a key concern when implementing desktop virtualization solutions. During VDI deployment, the most significant costs go towards setting up the infrastructure, scaling expenses, and recurring maintenance costs. So, ensure to seek out an affordable long-term solution.
  • It’s important to determine the infrastructure control capabilities offered by the desktop virtualization solution provider to update the infrastructure, such as securing network services.

Final thoughts

Desktop virtualization is available in the form of DaaS, VDI, and RDS. In all these deployments, the underlying technology is the same. The only difference is how we are using virtualization. On the cloud, you can reduce costs and receive everything as a managed service. On-premise, you can receive these services with a strong IT team. Evaluate the working of VDI solutions and deploy the right type depending on your organizational requirements.

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