Using IDV and VDI to Cut Computing Costs

Intelligent desktop virtualization can complement or upgrade your VDI implementation to save you money and aggravation, and it doesn't require a rip-and-replace project.

By Sham Sao

A few years ago, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions introduced a new computing paradigm. Pioneers of the VDI movement had discovered a way to virtualize desktops and have them run in the data center. This concept of server-hosted VDI was truly a breakthrough, allowing for higher security, lower desktop and application deployment costs, and reduced support costs. Although there are numerous benefits, there are also a handful of drawbacks: performance can be an issue, the technology doesn't really work well for laptop users, and the cost to fully scale up an implementation can be significant, just to mention a few.

No matter the size of your VDI investments, how you justify up-front investments, or if you are simply curious about available options, this article will help you and your enterprise reduce aggravation while saving money.

Traditional VDI is known for centralizing the management and execution of virtual desktops into the data center. Although effective for reducing administration and support costs, this centralization has historically resulted in an explosive growth of infrastructure costs as companies try to scale up to full deployment. A different approach, referred to as intelligent desktop virtualization (IDV) by Intel, offers a technology that will help to reduce this cost while improving end-user performance.

IDV versus VDI

The main difference between IDV and server-hosted VDI is where the desktop executes. IDV still centralizes the management of virtual desktops, but it harnesses the power of intelligent clients instead of thin clients. A few years ago, PCs were much more expensive than thin clients. Now, some models of desktop PCs can be purchased for nearly the same price as thin clients, and there are clear benefits to using intelligent clients versus thin clients.

An intelligent client is packed with computing power, which dramatically reduces the need for data center computing capacity, which, in turn, reduces operating costs. Although data centers provide a great place to execute server workloads, the reality is that the best place to execute desktop workloads for many use cases is on the desktop itself. For these use cases, IDV provides a secure end-user experience without the complexity, infrastructure investment, and scalability challenges of VDI.

In some use cases, VDI provides tremendous value. One example is where users are primarily accessing their desktops from a variety of devices with high-quality Internet connections. Another is using iPads to perform "consumption" work rather than "production" (i.e., reading and editing material vs. building presentations or spreadsheets). The model doesn't work as well for users who don't always have a network connection. Although some solutions offer a way to "check out" a virtual desktop for offline use on a laptop (like a library book), the process is time consuming and still requires the management of a base operating system on the laptop.

Both VDI and IDV can rapidly re-provision virtual desktops to any new machine, including not just the data but the entire user profile. Previously time-consuming tasks, such as migrating users to new machines, become quick and easy. Furthermore, both of these solutions can be configured to allow for instant recovery from malware or corruption. This capability alone translates into incredible savings in help-desk time and support costs every year.

Both VDI and IDV offer strong security benefits. The most robust IDV solutions offer capabilities such as full-disk encryption, time-based lockout, remote kill, USB filtering, and full virtual machine isolation using a Type-1 client hypervisor. Although some IDV solutions that only encrypt files or virtual machines may be vulnerable, solutions that offer AES-256 full-disk encryption (using hardware capabilities such as Intel AESNI) can provide the same level of protection as VDI. This is the same level of encryption that the U.S. government uses to protect "Top Secret" classified data. For companies that care about security and performance, choosing an IDV solution with a true Type-1 hypervisor is critical.

There are three ways to take advantage of IDV:

  • As an alternative to VDI: Many companies are using IDV as an alternative to VDI, giving their users local PC performance while providing IT complete control of both the physical devices and the virtual desktops.

  • As a complement to VDI: Several companies are using IDV to complement VDI by using an IDV solution on the end-point to access VDI sessions (instead of thin clients). This enables organizations to benefit from VDI but also run local VMs, which can be used in case of a network outage.

  • As an extension to VDI: Many organizations are using VDI for certain use cases but need a different kind of technology for power users or laptop users. These organizations are using IDV for the non-VDI use cases (e.g., executives, line-of-business managers, sales reps).

Companies that have already implemented VDI can reduce the cost of their desktop virtualization deployments as they scale up by including IDV to reduce the workload in their data centers.

Sham Sao is the senior vice president for products at Virtual Computer. Previously, Sham served as CMO of Infogroup's OneSource division, as global vice president of marketing and business development for Deploy Solutions, among other executive positions, and was a consulting team leader at McKinsey & Company. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science and a B.A. in Economics from Yale University. He attended Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, where he earned a J.D. in technology law and served as an editor of the Journal of Law & Technology. You can contact the author at

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