The cost benefits of VDI
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is the trailblazer of software delivery technology, born organically of real-world use cases, capable of delivering apps to most user contexts and with a reputation for being expensive.
While there is substance behind VDI’s notoriety for being potentially bank-breaking and carrying ‘hidden’ soft costs, many often forget that the savings it generates in other areas, and the added revenue it drives can often mitigate its associated costs.
VDI is used to solve some of the trickiest delivery contexts in higher education and has a number of key strengths. Usually, if an obstacle is in the way of delivering a specific piece of software to a certain device or delivery context, VDI has the capability to solve it.
- Cross-platform delivery of any Windows app
- Delivery to ultrathin and zero clients
- Deliver offsite, even with prohibitive license agreements
- VDI is more secure
Cross-platform delivery of any Windows app
The way VDI functions means that the end device’s interactions with software titles are limited to receiving visual data, and sending keyboard/mouse input data. This means that any device can be used to access Windows applications via VDI providing they can access each VDI solution’s clients, which are usually Mac, Windows, and HTML5.
Delivery to ultrathin and zero clients
With VDI, all of the computing and execution of apps are handled server-side. This means that hardware capabilities of the end device don’t factor into whether that device can access software via VDI. Higher Ed IT could use VDI to run Solidworks on a Chromebook, SPSS on an IPAD, and so on. Thin clients, zero clients, low-spec machines; VDI can deliver to them all.
Deliver offsite, even with prohibitive license agreements
A notorious and common problem with delivering software titles to offsite machines/users is that their license agreements often stipulate that the title must only be run on-campus. Given VDI runs and executes software titles on servers onsite, then deploys the resulting pixel data to end-devices, VDI allows IT to deliver software titles offsite while remaining license compliant. However, some vendors are beginning to respond to this by including VDI clauses in their agreements.
VDI is more secure
Whether using a legacy, on-premise VDI solution, or the newer model of pay-per-use cloud-hosted VDI solutions, security is almost always tighter with VDI. If your VDI is on-premise (eg, Citrix and VMware’s offerings), IT can manage it with confidence that data is safe; especially if end-users use VPNs. If using a newer, cloud-hosted solution, then IT’s data is in the hands of the most tried, tested, and trusted organizations in the world of data security, period. Amazon and Microsoft are proven in this context.
While there is substance behind VDI’s notoriety for carrying ‘hidden’ soft costs, many often forget that the savings it generates in other areas, and the added revenue it drives can often mitigate its associated costs.
- A better IT service boosts FTE and revenue
- Reduce investment in physical machines (computing power of machines)
- Leverage student-owned hardware (number of machines)
- Virtual machines don’t need hardware upgrades
- Less time spent/reliance on imaging physical machines
- More energy-efficient than some alternatives
- Cloud-hosted solutions have pay-as-you-go models
A better IT service boosts FTE and revenue
VDI allows higher Ed IT to provide better, more consistent, and more convenient access to software for students, through the use of virtualization infrastructure. As past research has shown, IT service is intrinsically tied to student experience, outcomes, and ratings. And the better these three aspects of students’ experience are, the more students will enroll. Higher enrolment equals higher revenue.
Reduce investment in physical machines
As mentioned previously, VDI can deliver to thin, ultrathin, and zero clients. This means that IT can invest less money in machines with standalone computing power/hardware and, instead, opt for lighter clients that cost less to purchase, but will run apps via VDI with the same performance as a high-spec machine running apps locally.
Leverage student-owned hardware (number of machines)
With VDI’s cross-platform capability and lack of reliance on the computing power of the end device, IT can deliver to student-owned BYO devices more frequently and in more delivery contexts. More students accessing software on their own devices means that IT can reduce their hardware budget spend by simply buying fewer machines. By extension, this helps IT
Less maintenance and hardware upgrades
Virtual desktops generally need much less maintenance than physical ones, and the process of upgrading them is much simpler. This alleviates pressure and frees up time for IT to focus on key strategic projects.
Less time spent/reliance on imaging physical machines
While imaging is still needed and useful when deploying virtual desktops, it is much less laborious and time-consuming than imaging thousands of physical machines. This results in time saved for IT and makes deploying updates, patches, and new software titles a quicker task.
More energy-efficient than some alternatives
An alternative to VDI is using Remote Desktop Protocol or RDP Services to allow students to remote into physical machines out of hours. This requires all machines to be left on and so is very high in power consumption. VDI uses virtual machines, so no physical desktops need to be left on and only the servers need power. This is the greener and cheaper option.
Cloud-hosted solutions are pay-as-you-go
Windows Virtual Desktop and other cloud-based alternatives feature pay-as-you-go usage models, allowing universities to only pay for what they need. There is negligible upfront investment required for cloud-hosted VDI solutions when compared with legacy VDI and other delivery methods.