Earlier this year Microsoft announced a new VDI license plan for Windows 8, called Companion Device License, which will apply to all users who access Windows through non-Windows devices. The company has yet to announce full pricing details.
Microsoft itself supports the view that VDI's total costs are higher than a traditional PC setup. The software maker recently published a study that found that VDI costs were, on average, 11% higher per user.
"While VDI reduced hardware and service desk costs, new software and engineering costs offset those savings, actually increasing overall costs," according to the study, which Microsoft said was conducted on its behalf by "independent TCO experts."
VDI can also put a strain on storage cost and capacity as data that was once maintained on workers' PCs is moved to the data center.
"There are ways you can drive down the cost, but storage is still a very big consideration in the overall cost [of a VDI deployment],"said Krueger.
So if VDI can actually be a more expensive setup than a traditional desktop environment, why undertake it? "It really expands some of the things you can do with your organization," said Krueger.
One benefit is that VDI can give users access to their full enterprise desktop from any location. That's key for road warriors, who could be freed from lugging heavy laptops through airport security. Another is that VDI plays to the growing BYOD trend. Workers who prefer to get to their enterprise apps through an iPad or some other tablet would have the option to do so.
VDI may also make it easier for IT departments to centrally manage desktop provisioning and security.
That's no small benefit for organizations like one GlassHouse customer, a defense contractor that wanted to move 30,000 desktops to VDI. The company found it couldn't justify the project from an ROI standpoint, but proceeded anyway to obtain the other benefits. "VDI will touch every existing component of your IT infrastructure," said Krueger.