An Overview of the VMware VDI Infrastructure

What is VMware VDI?

A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a networked environment where physical servers host-guest virtual machines (VMs) provisioned as desktops for remote users. A hypervisor like the VMware ESXi allows you to create and run guest VMs on a VDI server. Since virtual desktops run from a central location, a VDI is easier to maintain than individual networked PCs. Thus, a VDI is a viable option for beating the costly maintenance cycles of traditional hardware.

What Is a VDI?

A VDI allows organizations to take advantage of the always-on, run-anywhere nature of virtual computing. With a virtual desktop, users are not tied down to the PCs on their desks. Instead, they can use practically any device to access their virtual desktops from anywhere. Thus, a VDI does away with the constraints of traditional office-based computing. With virtual desktops and their data residing in a central location, you avoid potentially destructive system crashes and minimize data theft potential.

With a hypervisor, VDI administrators can create VMs on server hardware, then install guest operating systems such as Windows, macOS, and Linux on those VMs. They then provision the virtual desktops with the applications required by their users. Remote users connect to the VMs, boot them up and then work on their virtual desktops.

Since the operating systems and applications in virtual desktops all reside on the VDI server, there are minimum system requirements for the user devices that connect to the VDI. Regular client PCs, thin clients, and other devices such as tablet devices and mobile phones can be used to connect to virtual desktops.

Why Use a VDI?

VDIs provide several benefits, including user mobility, ease of access, flexibility, and greater security. Previously, its high-performance requirements made it pricy and challenging to deploy on legacy systems, which created problems for many businesses. However, the rise in enterprise adoption of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) offers a solution that provides scalability and high performance at a lower cost.

What is VDI Used For?

Although VDIs can be utilized in several diverse ways, there are a few use cases that are particularly suited for VDI environments:

BYOD

VDIs are ideal for bring your own device (BYOD) policies since processing is carried out over a centralized server, which allows the use of a wider range of devices.

Remote Work

VDI makes virtual desktop deployment simplified.

Shift/Task Work

Non-persistent VDI is particularly well suited to organizations such as call centers that have a large number of employees who use the same software to perform limited tasks.

VDI server and infrastructure functionality

Hypervisors and VMs play crucial roles in a VDI. When setting up a VDI, pay special attention to the type of hypervisor you plan to use and how your VMs should be organized to meet your specific requirements. You should also implement an interface to facilitate VDI management.

Hypervisors fall into any of two types.

Type 1 Hypervisor

Type-1 or bare-metal supervisors, like VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V, run on top of the server hardware and do not need an underlying operating system to tap into the hardware’s various components, e.g., CPUs and processor cores, memory, networking, and storage.

Type 2 Hypervisor

Type-2 or hosted hypervisors, such as Parallels Desktop for Mac and QEMU, run on top of the server operating system, just like any other application. They rely on the server OS to provide them with the resources they need to run.

Type 1 vs Type 2 Hypervisor

The ability to access hardware directly means that type-1 hypervisors are faster and more efficient than their type-2 counterparts. The former can marshal all hardware resources at their disposal and apportion them according to need. In the case of the latter, the underlying OS allows resources to the hypervisor instead of the other way around. However, while more powerful, type-1 hypervisors are more complex to implement.

Whatever type of hypervisor you choose, you should see to it that the corresponding hardware can meet the demands you place on the VDI. Nonetheless, hypervisors have a High Availability (HA) feature that allows them to connect to or provision other servers in the event of a catastrophic failure. Implementation of this feature means that when a VDI server goes down, a backup server takes its place. This keeps operational impact to a minimum.

Persistent vs Non-Persistent VDI

Depending on the setup of your VDI, users can either log on to the same desktop or a different one every time they connect to the VDI. In a persistent VDI, users can personalize or customize their virtual desktops. A persistent VDI closely approximates traditional heavy clients since the state of the virtual desktops is preserved across sessions. Also, users can make changes to their desktops without administrative intervention. The opposite is true for a non-persistent VDI.

If your users work with the same set of application programs daily, a persistent VDI might be best for your organization. Since a persistent VDI provides users with their own virtual desktops, it requires more storage resources. Thus, if consistency is not a requirement, your organization might be better off with a non-persistent VDI.

Other than the above, you would also need to set up a management interface for the VDI. This interface will allow you to create VMs, provision and assign them to users, and back up and add more capacity to your VDI, among other functions.

What Are the Unique Features of VMware ESXi Server?

VMware ESXi is a bare-metal hypervisor. VMware ESXi can directly access your physical servers’ processing, storage, and network components, and share these among the VMs in the VDI. Helping with this task is a high-performance cluster file system named Virtual Machine File System.

Otherwise known as VMkernel, the VMware ESXi microkernel orchestrates the smooth operation of the host and its guest VMs. It does this by connecting directly to the CPU and memory and utilizing other modules derived from Linux to connect to the networking and storage components.

Other features unique to VMware ESXi include:

Parallels RAS and VDI Infrastructures

Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) is a VDI solution ideal for remote working, providing you with secure access to your virtual desktops and applications on any device. Its auto-provisioning capabilities mean that you can use it to scale your infrastructure quickly.

Parallels RAS supports VDI providers such as VMware ESXi and VMware Center, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Microsoft Hyper-V Failover Cluster. It also supports hypervisors other than VMware ESXi, including Scale Computing HC3 and Nutanix Acropolis.

With Parallels RAS, you can quickly create a secure VDI that can be managed centrally from a single pane of glass. This makes your life a lot easier when compared to figuring out how to set up and use VMware VDI.

Find out how easy it is to set up your own VDI.

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