We don't buy everything being pitched, and we don't believe that now is the time for ubiquitous VDI. But we do know that information security pros who aren't investigating the security advantages are missing out.RUN THE NUMBERS Especially when budgets are tight, costs are weighed against competitive benefit, business alignment, and how well the new initiative aids security and compliance efforts. VDI is a good investment on these counts, assuming you have the data center wherewithal to support the extra servers required. The computing power has to come from somewhere, and sites with limited rack space or that are running out of amps or have overtaxed air conditioning or ventilation systems should run the numbers.
VDI's biggest benefit comes from centralization. Changes to the desktop image are greatly simplified by abstracting the operating system. Financially, we expect to see lower total cost of ownership from extended thin-client hardware life, fewer cycles spent on hardware-induced OS failure, and lightened deployment efforts. Business continuity is another win. If you've been forced to back up desktops because policies allow for local storage of data, VDI will make your life easier. Possibly sensitive information no longer will reside on vulnerable end-user machines, and there are a litany of data management options enabled when all your files reside in a centralized site.
But what happens when a mashup meets virtual desktop infrastructure, or you're deep into building a service-oriented architecture? VDI doesn't intrude on Web 2.0 trends. And buying software as a service plays right into the general argument for virtualization: SaaS is simply a virtualized application deployed from the Internet. VDI and SaaS complement each other for mainstream productivity applications.
In the diagram on p. 48, we illustrate how virtual desktop components are delivered. A typical enterprise deployment begins with a server cluster in the data center. End users can connect with current hardware; simply remove Windows and install a hypervisor. When an employee fires up her desktop, she's immediately asked to log in and is issued a virtual desktop image. True IT control freaks will like the new dumb terminals, but with full desktops often in the $300 to $600 range, and good "thin" VDI clients in the $250 to $700 range, we're not yet convinced of the economics. With a legacy desktop, sure, an employee could bring in an OS on a flash drive and do mischief, but nothing is bulletproof. You will want to keep some fat desktop clients around to deliver access to apps that run only natively on Windows. Once an employee is connected, the desktop machine is simply a conduit. SSL protects traffic as it traverses the wire.