Dell Appliance for Wyse — Business-Class VDI for $331 per Desktop

Toward the beginning of last month, I compared the costs of DaaS and VDI, suggesting that the difference was too small to declare a winner. The three-year cost of a bare-bones DaaS service, like Amazon WorkSpaces, comes in at about $315,000, not so far off from the $380,000 list price of a VMware EVO:RAIL–based VDI platform with plenty of room to lower the cost of VDI to something far more attractive. I had intended to follow up with an article on how to deliver a VDI solution for less than the cost of an equivalent number of enterprise-class desktop PCs. Well, I needn’t have bothered, because Dell has announced the Dell Appliance for Wyse, a turnkey VDI solution that brings the cost of VDI down to half the cost of a desktop PC.

The Dell Appliance for Wyse – vWorkspace (DAW-vW), to give it its full name, is a self-contained appliance solution built on the Dell PowerEdge R730 13G platform. It comes complete with everything you need to deliver a working VDI solution (vWorkspace, SQL, SCVMM, and Windows Server licenses) except for Microsoft client access licenses. DAW-vW is available in two editions: a VDI platform for up to 200 desktops and an RDSH solution that can support up to 350 concurrent sessions. DAW-vW scores full marks for ease of use. Dell has developed custom scripts to simplify installation and deployment and has optimized the vWorkspace management console to make it as effortless as possible for anyone with basic Microsoft admin skills to administer. However, in maximizing simplicity, it sacrifices flexibility. DAW-vW is a self-contained, standalone solution that can neither scale out nor scale up. Users requiring more seats can buy multiple appliances but must manage each appliance separately.

I just went online to price a Dell OptiPlex 7020 small form factor desktop with an Intel® Core™ i3-4150 Processor (dual core, 3 MB, 3.50 GHz, with HD Graphics 4400), 4 GB of memory, and a 500 GB hard disk. As of the time of this writing, it is available for $649, excluding monitor. The price per desktop for a 200-user Dell Appliance for Wyse is only $331, just over half the cost of a business PC. Add on a Chromebook or Chromebox for $180 and the first year’s VDA CAL, and you have a turnkey VDI system for $611 per desk, just under the cost of a physical PC. If $611 is too expensive, the RDSH version of DAW-vW gives you 350 sessions for just $181 each, with a Chromebox and RDS CAL bringing the cost up to $461.

The limits of Dell’s packaging of DAW-vW start to appear when your requirements don’t exactly match DAW-vW’s sweet spot. Not only does DAW-vW not scale up or out, but it does not scale down, either. Any unused vWorkspace licenses remain just that: unused and unusable. This bumps up the cost per desktop. Still, there’s more to DAW-vW than just the headline price. Its operational benefits should more than offset any increase in cost for using fewer than the optimal number of desktops. While today Dell only offers DAW-vW as a 200-desktop, 350-session appliance, it could quickly and easily introduce smaller appliances if the market demand materializes.

Dell is targeting DAW-vW at both small businesses and education customers. While it may be a good fit for small businesses that recognize the value of VDI but struggle with the technical complexity of traditional implementations, the lack of scalability may reduce its attractiveness in the education sector. An increasing number of education boards are moving to one device per child, which quickly pushes the number of devices per school well past the 350-session limit. However, for smaller K–12 schools, the low cost may offset the inefficiencies of having to manage multiple appliances separately.

The Dell Appliance for Wyse – vWorkspace will be launched globally on July 1, 2015.

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