VDI Stall: VDI Appliances solve the hardware problem so, what next?

We’ve discussed the fact that VDI appliance makers were making good progress simplifying adoption of a virtual desktop infrastructure.  An appliance-based route to market can be seen as win-win: being designed both to reduce cost and complexity of implementation (for the customer) and shorten sales cycles (for the vendor). So goes the theory. To understand this theory further one VDI appliance vendor, Pivot3, commissioned Dimensional Research to survey global IT in order to get real-world insight into the state of VDI.

The survey showed that over 80% of respondents had VDI in their current strategy. Over 50% of those deploying VDI would utilize new hardware. What was perhaps more interesting was that traditional stall points of VDI, hardware complexity and security, took a back-seat in a list of concerns. The appliance model was undoubtedly popular, but if that problem is solved – what were the main concerns of organisations?

 VDI Appliances Give Focus

Appliances are servers and software that provides both the compute and storage resources in one box. In the past, organizations deploying a VDI service would buy big centralized storage arrays; these arrays evolved into centralized arrays mixing traditional hard disk and some solid state. But, big centralized storage arrays are well.. big.. and importantly expensive. Likely great when working at scale: but difficult to be cost effective when delivering smaller numbers of desktops (say for an SME/SMB) and not readily scalable in small chunks as demand increased.

To this end VDI appliance vendors brought an array of products to market: although it is noted that most of the VDI Appliance traction has and still is coming from VMware rather than Citrix. Vendors include  enterprise incumbents Cisco, Dell, HP and VCE  and more agile and focused vendors such as Nutanix, Pivot 3 and V3 Systems with still new players, such as Nimdesk coming on-board.



Pivot3’s survey found that VDI appliances were considered to make VDI more attractive to customers. Given the question, that’s to be expected; no one likes expensive and complicated. That aside, if we consider that it was larger companies that drove early VDI adoption, broader adoption will stand on the shoulders of the sizable SME/SMB space. Such organisations have neither the pockets or manpower for complex environments. Pre-configured, pre-sized VDI Appliances will allow such organisations to focus their resources on the business’ needs and open up the market.


VDI Appliances to help make 2013 the year of VDI?

2010 was going to the year of VDI: but it turned out 2010 was just a practice. 2011 was going to the year of VDI: but 2011 was also, just a practice.  We discussed if 2012 was “the year of VDI”: with a view that 2012 allowed for the supporting technologies to mature and crucially  expectations to be better set as to what VDI could do. It could not save the world. It  could not secure your universe. But it was a viable method of fast desktop delivery (important given that almost 40% of Windows market share is still clock ticking XP ) and less cluttered maintenance and support.

P3 VDI Appliance Challenges

P3 found that coming out of 2012 and going into 2013, the perceived challenges faced by organizations were now focused on performance, network bandwidth and user acceptance that their new virtualized desktop would perform as well as their existing traditional desktop.


Intelligent Desktop Virtualisation: VDI isn’t always the answer

User experience, has and always will be key. All the more so as modern mobile devices such as tablets give compute power and experience in the palm of a fairly sizable hand. Any organisation needs to provide a desktop service offering that can accommodate mobile working: on-line and off-line. During 2012, both Citrix and VMware enhanced their portfolios with solutions that looked to address this. Citrix with acquisition of NxTop, and VMware with Wanova.

Both solutions have “branch-office deployment” scenarios; allowing a central configuration of an image to be maintained centrally and delivered to local environments with an associated sync of users’ configuration and data for backup. Both P3 and Nutanix have released updated versions of their VDI appliance models recently, each with new reference architectures demonstrating how View’s Mirage product can be accommodated in branch office deployments utilizing their devices for scaleable storage and replication. Citrix XenClient – despite its significant overhaul and similar capabilities, is yet to receive such support. One could argue that with compute capacity moved off to end devices, such appliance model solutions are now over engineered – however, the replication technologies that such devices have allow a level of redundancy and availability that enhances a desktop service through virtualization where full hosted desktop solutions aren’t viable due to network bandwidth or availability issues.


VDI Stall: Hardware Solved, now to Deliver on User Expectation

Recent updates to appliance hardware capabilities are impressive, but as we said back in September, vendors need to do more to reduce address the uncertainties around system sizing and implementation.  While P3 delivers its appliances pre-installed which is laudable, vendors need to consider pre-configuration of better discovery and system sizing tools. Liquidware Labs provide a discovery virtual appliance. RES Software have a cloud-based service. Centrix Software are considering an appliance for Workspace iQ.

If the desire is to deliver to the significant SMB market, if organisations want to deliver on customer expectation when delivering hosted desktops then regardless of the technical merits of individual VDI appliances – correct sizing and reliable user experience monitoring are key. Whoever delivers the most comprehensive end-to-end package will be the most likely to win in this highly competitive market that looks strong going into 2013. Interestingly, as organisations consider mobility to be of greater importance, architectures that accommodate a range of desktop services are going to have increased influence. If experience is key and hosted desktops are complemented with IDV, if 2013 is to be the year of VDI – how many more years are to come?