Apples & Oranges – Integrated vs. Standalone VDI

Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI) have become a trending topic throughout the IT industry, but, as with all revolutionary technologies, it has raised many questions regarding its best practices for implementation. While the concept of virtualized desktops seems straight forward, VDI carries a multitude of implementation strategies – not to mention the numerous vendors in VDI, each with their own claims and advantages. However, among the seemingly endless amount of implementation options, there are two primary strategies – implementing VDI as either an Integrated solution, or as a Standalone architecture.

Integrated VDI solutions are those where the virtual users are assimilated and added into the existing IT environment. For example, a group of 10 to 20 pilot VDI users can be added onto the existing infrastructure by purchasing the desired quantity of user licenses, then migrating those users off of their physical desktops and onto the virtual server and storage hardware. Of the two strategies, this is by far the simplest since the required hardware is already in place and administrators need only purchase licenses and thin/zero clients for the virtual users to replace their physical PCs. This simplicity, however, does not come without risks. Adding users’ workloads onto the existing infrastructure places greater strain on the hardware and possibly negatively impacts performance of the original applications and the entire environment. It can also be difficult to accurately gauge the resources required from the virtual users and therefore challenging to project the impact that VDI will have. While there are certainly risks associated with Integrated solutions, there are scenarios where they are most suitable. Smaller VDI environments – usually between 1-20 users – are excellent candidates for Integrated solutions due to the minimal resource requirements and ease of predicting the performance impact. However, Standalone solutions are ideal for larger VDI environments – usually for VDIs with 50 virtual users or more.

Standalone VDI solutions are those where the entire VDI resides on hardware that is dedicated to the solution. For example, a Standalone solution will have its own servers, storage, clients, and possibly even its own switch and networking fabric. Standalone VDI solutions are traditionally more expensive than their Integrated counterparts due to the upfront expenditure on dedicated hardware. However, Standalone solutions are ‘safer’ in the sense that their isolation from the existing infrastructure protects other applications and ensures that there are no negative side effects in performance. Standalone solutions are also typically comprised of redundant, enterprise-grade hardware opposed to the consumer-grade hardware with a single point of failure that is utilized by most standard office users. This guarantees user uptime in the event of common hardware failure such as failed disk drives, cooling fans, and more. Standalone VDI solutions are usually scalable as well, making them ideal for larger VDI deployments (50+) that need to accommodate for the seamless addition of users as the company grows.

So which VDI strategy is optimal for your company? This largely boils down to the amount of virtual users and the company’s projected growth. While Integrated solutions are ideal for smaller deployments that do not foresee expanding far beyond a small footprint, Standalone solutions are suited toward larger deployments and can better accommodate future growth while guaranteeing both infrastructure and user performance. SnapVDI is a scalable, all-in-one hardware and software Standalone VDI solution that is architected for 50+ user VDI deployments that require on-the-fly user additions without compromising performance.

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