Originally posted on LinkedIn by DataEndure Cloud and Data Science Practice Manager, Scott Stephenson.
One of the trends the pandemic has helped popularize is the use of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The centralized management and control of the workstation environment at a time when more users are working away from the corporate office has long been appealing. Additionally, with VDI in the cloud, organizations can reduce their dependence on premises infrastructure and can constrict many of the management and capital costs. VDI can also be configured to help prevent data loss by limiting what information is allowed from the virtual desktop to the physical machine of the end user.
Unfortunately, the journey to VDI is not as simple as setting up a couple of Desktop Images and calling it a day.
When we decided to migrate to VDI as a corporate solution, we discovered this quickly.
Even though we already had a subscription and had set up Active Directory in the cloud, we quickly discovered that setting up that first host pool required some investigation. Examples of considerations include the choice of the cloud for the VDI offering (AWS and Azure both have strong VDI solutions), Desktop Operating system (some are better suited for use as a session host than others), the sizing for the session hosts, and the process to develop and obtain an image to be used for those session hosts. Finally, the setup process can have its own challenges (for example, ensuring that your chosen cloud can navigate to your Active Directory service to join session hosts to the domain.)
When you successfully complete setting up the host pool, there are other considerations to get the environment ready for use, including the following:
- User Profile Management
Your users will want to have their profiles (Desktop Icons, Mapped Drives, personalization settings) available regardless of the underlying session host. In Azure, this can be managed using FSLogix, which enables a user profile to be attached to a desktop session. Setting up the profile storage and proper administrative and end user permissions add to the setup complexity.
- Application Management
When managing Desktops, traditionally IT has to manage an image (possibly multiple images) to ensure that users have the right applications installed; in some VDI environments, applications can be mounted to sessions like the user profiles. This can be great for management, as you can control the applications your user community has available in their VDI session, but requires that you can package the Applications (in MSIX, for example), manage the Application storage, and deploy appropriately to the VDI. Additionally, some applications have configurations that are more challenging to package via the current available toolset.
- Management Challenges
Unlike managing individual workstations, managing a pool of hosts which may support several concurrent sessions have some different management needs. For example, detecting and responding to potential performance impact for your users based on a session host that is oversubscribed or undersized. This consideration is magnified if you have multiple VDI host pools based on geographic, functional, or organizational needs. Finally, your infrastructure will need maintenance, whether it be patching session hosts with OS security patches (or updating the session host image with those patches), or updating your packaged applications to the current patch level. Note that you still need to consider security for your infrastructure. Even though you can configure access to the VDI via a gateway, preventing the need for any of the infrastructure from needing any public IP addresses, your infrastructure still needs to be protected from viruses or malicious behavior.
- Cost Management Considerations
Cloud Based VDI solutions do not automatically protect your company’s pocketbook. Key considerations include proper sizing of your session hosts as well as a solution to manage your horizontal scaling (how many hosts you need to operate at any given time based on your concurrent usage, business hours or other factors). Ensuring the use of reserved instances or even spot instances can save 30% – 70% of the VDI session host costs. Finally, ensuring that you have selected the right level of storage access can help manage the cost of managing user profiles and applications.
Ultimately, cloud based VDIs can bring a great deal of business value, flexibility, and infrastructure control, but there are a number of challenges to reach the rewards.
If you need assistance to make the transition to a virtual desktop solution, you can reach out to us for help implementing a VDI solution or even managing the cloud based VDI solution for you.