How to Calculate and Reduce Your VDI Cost

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is often touted to be more cost-effective than traditional infrastructure consisting of physical PCs that run locally installed operating systems and applications. However, there are elements in VDI, such as storage and vague licensing terms, that can also drive costs up. It’s important to understand where costs come from in order to realize a good return on a VDI investment.

In this post, we’ll walk you through some benefits of VDI, tips on how to calculate VDI costs, ways to cut them and even give a comparison between VDI and traditional infrastructure costs. As a bonus, we’ll also explain how combining Parallels RAS and hyperconverged infrastructure can give you some of the most cost-effective VDI environments possible.

Definition of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

VDI is a virtualization solution that enables you to host an operating system, along with its applications, in a central location such as an on-premises datacenter or a public cloud, and then deliver them as virtual applications and desktops over a network (e.g., a local area network [LAN], wide area network [WAN], or the internet) to endpoint devices such as PCs, laptops, thin clients, phones, and tablets.

From a user’s perspective, those virtual applications and desktops look and feel as if they’re installed locally on their device even if they’re actually running remotely on a server, possibly hundreds or thousands of miles away. Normally, virtual applications and desktops use very little (sometimes no) storage, CPU, and RAM on the endpoint device. These capabilities make VDI ideal for the following use cases:

Benefits of VDI

VDI has many benefits. Using it can help you do the following:

How to Calculate Your VDI Costs

Where do most of the costs in a typical VDI environment come from? Focus on these key areas when you attempt to calculate possible costs before building a VDI infrastructure. Here are some of the things you can do to bring those costs down, so be sure you take note.

Hardware Cost

A substantial portion of your upfront costs will come from hardware, especially if you’re going to deploy your VDI solution on-premises. You’re going to need physical servers, storage arrays/controllers, power supplies, network equipment, cooling equipment, and so on. If you’re aiming for an infrastructure with high availability, business continuity, and disaster recovery capabilities, you’ll need to factor in additional costs for redundancy as well.

The best way to reduce hardware costs is to deploy your VDI solution in a public cloud like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP). That eliminates practically all your upfront hardware costs and transforms those expenses from capital expense (CAPEX) to operational expense (OPEX). Of course, your VDI solution needs to be able to support cloud deployments.

If you really prefer to have an on-premises deployment, you should consider deploying your VDI solution on hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). HCIs, which combine compute, storage, and networking into a single appliance, are more cost-efficient than traditional infrastructure hardware. Again, you can do that only if your VDI solution supports such a deployment.

VDI Licenses

Another major contributor to your upfront costs is going to be software licenses, especially the license for your VDI solution. Most of them don’t come cheap. Moreover, a single VDI solution can have more than one license type, each tailored for a specific use case.

Generally speaking, there are two main types of licenses:

It’s important to understand the characteristics of each type to get the best deal for your setup.

Note that, in addition to licensing costs for your VDI solution, there are also going to be licensing costs for other software you’ll be using in your VDI environment. It’s almost a given that you’ll be delivering Windows desktops and Windows-based applications, so even if you have to factor in licensing costs for those, the costs for those items are going to be the same regardless of what VDI solution you’ll be using.

What’s more important to consider are the licensing costs for support software. For example, some VDI solutions require an installation of Microsoft SQL Server. If you want to avoid these additional licensing costs, pick a solution that can stand alone.

Other On-Premises VDI Costs

Aside from hardware costs, which we already discussed, other costs you need to consider in an on-premises VDI environment are those that have to do with architecting and deploying that environment. In addition to the physical hardware, typically your VDI environment will include hypervisors, databases, as well as other software (e.g., Active Directory). Putting all these components together into a working VDI environment will require assistance from certified experts with highly-priced professional fees.

To bring down these costs, choose a VDI solution with a simplified architecture. Some VDI solutions, like Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS), are so easy to deploy, your in-house IT staff can perform the deployment themselves. The more complex the VDI solution is, the higher your on-premises costs will be.

Operational Expenses

Once your VDI environment is up and running, you’ll start incurring support and maintenance costs for both the underlying hardware and the software running on top of it. If you deploy your VDI solution in a public cloud, you won’t have to worry about support/maintenance costs for the underlying hardware, but you’ll need to factor in your cloud provider’s monthly/annual charges.

As for support and maintenance costs for the VDI solution itself, remember that a more complex VDI solution will amount to higher operational costs. You can bring costs down by choosing a solution with simplified architecture.

Energy Costs

VDI environments require a lot of energy. You need the energy to power your physical servers, storage systems, and network devices. And then, since your servers generate so much heat, you need energy to power your cooling systems as well. That’s going to amount to steep energy costs.

One way to reduce those costs is—yes, you guessed it right—by deploying your VDI solution in a public cloud. That move will allow you to bring down energy costs considerably. Cloud providers also have physical servers, storage systems, network devices, and cooling systems in their underlying infrastructure. They are not only cost-efficient, but economies of scale will also allow your provider to qualify for reduced energy rates and pass those savings on to you.

Cost of VDI vs. Traditional Infrastructure

Clearly, there are a lot of costs associated with VDI. So now the question is, is it really more cost-effective than traditional infrastructure? Let’s dive into that discussion now.

When you shift from traditional physical desktops to VDI-based virtual desktops, you gain savings in the following areas:

Parallels RAS: A Cost-Effective VDI Solution

Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS) is a cost-effective, all-in-one VDI solution with several qualities that can bring your VDI costs down significantly.

First, Parallels RAS supports multiple deployment options. You can deploy it on-premises, on public clouds such as Azure, AWS, and GCP, as well as on hybrid cloud infrastructures. The ability to deploy Parallels RAS on a public cloud means you can bring down the cost of hardware, operations, and energy.

You can even reduce costs for on-premises deployments because Parallels RAS also supports HCI deployments. Hyperconverged infrastructure is more cost-efficient than traditional infrastructure from a CAPEX and OPEX standpoint. Parallels RAS supports major HCI solutions such as Nutanix, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Hyperconverged Infrastructure, and Scale Computing HC3.

A single Parallels RAS installation includes everything you need for a VDI environment. Parallels RAS doesn’t require any add-ons like MS SQL Server and other support software so you can avoid the additional licensing costs that are present in other VDI solutions.

Last but not least, Parallels RAS is built on a simplified architecture that can be understood easily by IT generalists. That means you don’t have to hire certified specialists to deploy and maintain a Parallels RAS environment. Your current IT team can take care of that.

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