What is desktop virtualization?
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to adopt a fully remote or hybrid working environment, which, in turn, necessitated investment in new technology to support their workforces. This article highlights how desktop virtualization can help reduce technology costs while improving management capabilities.
With Working from Home and remote working increasingly becoming the “new normal” of the post-COVID world, desktop virtualization technologies have become a viable option for companies to facilitate their remote workers with a full-fidelity desktop experience.
Desktop virtualization allows end-users (workers) to easily access a virtual desktop on any device (including mobile devices) to minimize the need for high-performance and expensive hardware.
On the other hand, the organization can maintain a centralized maintenance and security management approach, providing more straightforward and consistent management.
What Is Desktop Virtualization?
Desktop virtualization is an umbrella term referring to the methods and technologies used to virtualize (simulate) a desktop environment and Operating System (OS).
The desktop virtualization technology creates a virtual version (software-based) of the desktop environment, OS, and applications that are completely separated from the end user’s device (computers or mobile devices).
Then, the user can access the virtual desktop with any device (even capable mobile devices like smartphones or tablets), providing them with a full desktop experience even in a technology-limited (and affordable) device.
Benefits of Desktop Virtualization
Desktop virtualization can offer some important benefits that can help organizations in achieving their goals, including but not limited to:
- Cost Saving: with desktop virtualization, you can reduce the investments otherwise needed to purchase hardware for individual workers. In a cloud-based DaaS model, for example, you can simply pay a usage-based charge or subscription fee, and workers can use their own device to perform heavy computing tasks as allowed by the desktop virtualization solution.
- Easier management: desktop virtualization can make it easier for businesses and especially IT departments to manage the organization’s computing needs.
- Versatility: workers can work anytime, anywhere, and from any device as long as they have an internet connection, which in turn can improve their productivity.
- Scalability: companies can quickly and easily deploy new Virtual Machines or add new applications to the desktop virtualization whenever necessary. On the other hand, when they are no longer needed, we can easily delete them.
- Security: a key characteristic in desktop virtualization is the fact that the physical hardware used to access the desktop OS is separated from the VM. It’s easier to ensure security to the server running the VM by maintaining tight control.
How Does Desktop Virtualization Work?
We can use many different technologies and methods to achieve desktop virtualization, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will fit all organizations.
Desktop virtualization requirements may vary for different organizations, but in general, there are three basic deployment models to consider:
Remote Desktop Service (RDS)
RDS is a component of Microsoft Windows that facilitates desktop virtualization, allowing users to remotely access Windows OS and applications through the Windows Server operating system. RDS is previously known as Microsoft Terminal Server.
In an RDS deployment, one instance of Windows Server will be accessed by multiple users simultaneously, only limited by the server hardware’s capabilities in running its OS and applications.
RDS is the most cost-effective virtualization option in many cases, but it’s also the least versatile since users can’t personalize their experience. Also, not all Windows applications support simultaneous usage in an RDS deployment.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
In a VDI deployment, each end-user gets their own dedicated Virtual Machine (VM) running its own operating system (OS) and applications. The end-user can interact with the virtual desktop and the underlying applications as if it is their local device.
In practice, the actual operating system runs on a Virtual Machine (VM) hosted on a server. On the other hand, the OS resources (CPUs, memory, drivers) are operated from a hypervisor (software that creates and runs VMs) that allows multiple VMs to run side-by-side on a single server while serving multiple users.
RDS and VDI are mostly identical when it comes to user experience but are very different when it comes to back-end management. In a VDI deployment, it’s easier for the IT department to allocate different resources for different users as needed (i.e., video editors may need more computing power, so more resources are allocated).
Also, in general, more applications are compatible with VDI than RDS.
However, a key downside to VDI is that it is much more difficult and expensive to set up than RDS. You may need separate licenses for each user, which will translate into more expensive upfront costs. You may need to hire or outsource to experienced IT specialists to set up and maintain the VDI deployment.
Desktop as a Service (Daas)
Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is technically a VDI deployment, but everything from setting up the Virtual Machine to the regular maintenance (security updates, troubleshooting, etc.) of the deployment is managed by the DaaS vendor.
Typically companies can access the service of a DaaS vendor in a subscription-based model. By partnering with a reliable desktop virtualization provider, companies can quickly gain access to a ready-to-use VDI system that is readily scalable.
If, for example, the company in question is hiring a new employee, then onboarding this employee in a DaaS model is just as easy as creating a new account on the DaaS platform.
DaaS essentially offers all the benefits offered by the VDI deployment, but also some unique advantages:
- Ease of use: in a DaaS model, the DaaS vendor handles everything, so it’s much simpler for the organization to set up, use, and maintain the desktop virtualization experience. Workers can readily and easily access the desktop virtualization on any device.
- Centralized security: security will be the responsibility of the DaaS vendor rather than your own, and centralized security will make it easier for both the DaaS vendor and the client company in ensuring the integrity of data and the identity of virtual workers.
- Lower cost: Companies don’t need to invest in expensive hardware infrastructure as in a legacy VDI deployment. Also, ongoing maintenance of a legacy VDY deployment can be expensive and time-consuming.
However, that’s not saying DaaS is not without a drawback. In a DaaS deployment, customizability can be limited, depending on the DaaS vendors.
So, it’s important to choose a DaaS vendor that offers the right features and configurations (and the ability to customize them) according to your business’s unique needs.
Desktop virtualization allows businesses to provide workers with capable workstations while reducing the need to invest in physical hardware.
By implementing desktop virtualization, end-users (workers) can enjoy the full experience of a desktop without sacrificing convenience and functionality.