Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has become one of the most popular cost saving solutions for many small businesses as they prepare to weather out the current credit crunch. VDI quickly delivers cost savings and running costs.

Virtualisation has become one of the most popular technologies over recent years as savings are easily identifiable and new features enhance the solution to a greater extent than traditional technology deployments.

Virtualisation started out with server consolidation. Over the past three years this technology has been extended to the desktop, allowing any organisation to reduce the cost of traditional PC's by centralising the desktop.

At the forefront of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is VMware. VMware provides a solution where a large physical server can be divided up into virtual machines. Each virtual machine acts as a normal machine when a user is connected to it.

For VDI it is possible to create virtual machines running Windows XP and desktop applications used in small companies across the country such as Office, Outlook and all other desktop programs. Users then connect to a virtual machine from either a thin client, or existing PC that then acts like a terminal.

Centralising the desktop has been around for many years, with technologies like Citrix and Terminal Services. However VDI is the first solution that delivers an entire Windows XP machine to the user. This eliminates application compatibility problems and user acceptance.

The main reason VDI has soared in popularity is the fast return on investment

The number one comment from users that have been switched over to VDI is that their machine runs faster. This is because the virtual machine is running on server class hardware and faster storage.

The main reason VDI has soared in popularity is the fast return on investment. It is easy for any organisation to work out the total cost of PC's on desks and what the cost of a VDI solution is. Subtract the number and the percentage savings are calculated.

So what makes up a VDI solution?
*Physical servers capable of running VMware
*VMware to allow the creation and running of virtual machines
*Connection broker to allow users to connect to their virtual machine
*Connection device on the user's desk (Either an existing PC or thin client)

Unlike many solutions VDI is relatively easy to integrate into existing environments. Once, user acceptance testing and costs are calculated the transition for a user when they stop using their PC and start connecting to their virtual PC is very straight forward.

It is also possible to set up remote connectivity to a VDI solution and this allows more flexibility for users as they can log onto their virtual PC from other locations such as their home computer or from hot desks in other remote offices. This also provides a no cost business continuity service. If staff can not come into the office due to unforeseen circumstances they can work from home or another office.

VDI can reduce the amount of laptops. Laptops are the most expensive device for users and a recent survey carried out by TecDem showed that just over 67% of laptop users only use them in the office and at home or another office. This type of user no longer needs a laptop as they can access their virtual PC from these locations. As a rule of thumb if a user needs to work off line like on a train or plane they will still need a laptop.

What are the figures?
In a recent Total Cost of Ownership project (TCO) the cost of deploying PC's was calculated and the cost of implementing a new VDI solution was carried out. Taking into account all costs such as purchase price, time to install and setup, power consumption, maintaining the PC with new applications the total cost over 4 years for each PC was £1,566.

To provide a centralised VDI environment for the same project the total cost per user over 4 years was £861. This was assuming that exactly the same amount of virtual machines are deployed as there were PC's. Another key benefit of VDI is that a smaller number of virtual machines are required than there are users. Knowing that some people are on holidays, off sick, away on business or not needing a PC during the day it is possible to deliver a concurrent usage model. This can reduce the cost of software and hardware by another 10-30%. In a recent project for 400 users the total reduction using concurrent virtual machines was 26% bringing the total cost per user down to £623 over 4 years.

TecDem provides free online demonstrations of VDI. For more information visit