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Virtual desktop infrastructure enables you to deploy desktops remotely. VDI deployments host virtual machines on a central server, and then remotely serve users with virtual desktops. Users can access virtual desktops via an Internet connection, using any type of device, location, and operating system.
In this post, we’ll explain how VDI works and what are the difference between two main types of VDI deployments—persistent VDI and nonpersistent VDI. We will also examine VDI deployment best practices, and show how NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help make VDI deployments cost-effective, highly available, and easy to orchestrate with the flagship NetApp cloud solution.
In this article, you will learn:
- What is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)
- VDI use cases
- VDI basic components
- VDI deployment best practices
- Virtual desktop infrastructure with Cloud Volumes ONTAP
What Is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is an implementation that uses virtual machines (VMs) to provide virtual desktops to users. VMs are hosted on a centralized server and desktop environments are deployed to users remotely.
Users can access and use these desktops on nearly any device that supports an Internet connection. Since all processing and computing are done server-side, users aren’t restricted by device OS or most specifications.
When implementing virtual desktop infrastructure, you can set desktops up as either persistent or nonpersistent machines.
Should you choose persistent or non-persistent VDI? Here are the main differences:
- Persistent VDI—users connect to the same desktop every time and data is stored on the machine. The experience for users is almost the same as a native desktop.
- Nonpersistent VDI—generic machines are used that do not store data between sessions. Each time a user connects, they are provided a random session from the pool that is available. Nonpersistent machines require users to save files and data externally if they want to retain it for the next session.
Many organizations choose to implement VDI because it enables them to better control user desktops, improve remote accessibility, and increase the availability of workstations. A VDI solution can also help organizations extend the life of outdated hardware since desktop environments are no longer tied to the limitations of the client.
Who Should Use Virtual Desktops?
Virtual desktops are not beneficial to every company in every situation. However, for many companies, these desktops are useful for a variety of staff and user roles. These roles include:
- Kiosk users—for example, customers. Virtual desktops can be used to connect users on non-secure networks with minimal risk to your systems.
- Task Workers—for example, receptionists or call center workers. Virtual desktops enable you to provide access to critical business functions and data without it being stored on multiple devices. Additionally, if a desktop fails, it can often be restored faster than a computer can be rebooted, reducing downtime.
- Power Users—for example, code or graphics developers and audio or video producers. These users can gain access to custom configurations and applications on their host device while still accessing workplace environments. This enables users to take advantage of multiple OSes at once.
How Does VDI Work? VDI Basic Components
There are four basic components in a virtual desktop infrastructure implementation. These components are as follows.
Virtualization is the abstraction of your system architecture. It enables you to decouple your operating systems and hardware without losing functionality. You can use virtualization to increase the security, reliability, and flexibility of your infrastructure. Virtualization is accomplished through hypervisors.
Hypervisors are hardware, firmware, or software that is used to disconnect operating systems from hardware in virtualization. These components enable you to create and manage multiple VMs on a server. Each of these VMs is independent and can contain its own OS, configuration, and applications. In the case of VDI, each VM is a desktop instance.
Connection brokers are VDI software layers that connect your users to your virtual desktops. Your broker manages the authentication and authorization of users. It also ensures that desktop instances are distributed according to your policies and keeps track of the statuses of desktops and users.
Desktops pools are sets of virtual desktop instances that are categorized by user type or function. When a user matching the profile of the pool requests a desktop, an instance from that pool is served. This makes management of desktops easier when you have teams with different access or application requirements.
VDI Deployment Best Practices
When implementing VDI there are several best practices you should consider. These practices can help you ensure that your desktops are reliable, performant, and easily accessible.
Understanding end-user requirements
Before you can successfully deploy virtual desktop infrastructure you need to be aware of your user and organizational needs. For example:
- What operating systems and applications do users need?
- Do users need to be able to customize desktops or store data over time?
- How many users do you need desktops for?
- How frequently and for how long are desktop sessions required?
- What performance requirements do users have?
In addition to configuration and host requirements, you need to consider what hardware users are working from. This includes any peripherals that users may need to connect to. Often, there is not a single answer that organizations can provide for these questions. The greater variety of users and needs you have, the more complex your implementation.
Make VDI environments highly available
VDI implementations take local access to desktops away from users. This means that you can no longer rely on physical proximity to determine availability. It also means that many more users are relying on the availability of one or a few servers.
To avoid single points of failure you need to ensure that your implementation is distributed across several host servers. Ideally, these servers should be geographically spread to further reduce risks. You need to have failover procedures in place in case servers go down. It is also wise to harden your network connections or implement a backup connection in case your primary one goes out.
Consider using thin clients
Thin clients are essentially screens and peripherals that are connected directly to your network. These clients rely completely on your virtual desktops for computing power and have no storage or memory of their own. Due to this reliance, there is no way for users to change VDI client configurations or download files without your permission and knowledge.
These restrictions can significantly increase security because you have full control over your users’ abilities. Additionally, thin clients can ease IT responsibilities since there is no need to update hardware and any maintenance is significantly reduced.
Use flash or hybrid storage
One downside of a VDI implementation is that it requires significantly more input/output operations per second (IOPS) than traditional infrastructures. This is because desktops must constantly communicate with the host server to allow user functionality.
One solution for this is to use flash or hybrid storage solutions. These solutions enable users to retain and access data locally, reducing the number of server requests. In the case of hybrid solutions, data is also sent to the server, enabling it to be accessed by other users or by the same user from other locations.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure with Cloud Volumes ONTAP
NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the leading enterprise-grade storage management solution, delivers secure, proven storage management services on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP supports up to a capacity of 368TB, and supports various use cases such as file services, databases, DevOps or any other enterprise workload, with a strong set of features including high availability, data protection, storage efficiencies, Kubernetes integration, and more.
To find out more about VDI deployment in the cloud and how Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help you run your VDI environment on cloud resources, download our guidebook on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in the Cloud, where you’ll also learn about case studies of major companies who turned to Cloud Volumes ONTAP to make their VDI deployments cost-effective, highly available, and easy to orchestrate with the flagship NetApp cloud solution.