Quick VDI Value-Add – Customer Concerns and Tackling Cost

Identify and Analyze VDI Components (Layers) IS EQUAL TO Quick VDI Cost Analysis ( Datacenter related cost have been kept outside the scope of this blog)
I have been listening to many customers mainly from small shops and realised that the primary factor that bothers them is the Huge COST that is involved in Implementing VDI. I then thought of putting down my experiences and my take on how do we approach VDI and enable smaller organisation to implement a successful VDI. So this is my point of view and it is completely understandable you may or may not agree to this 🙂 and may not be not at all applicable (or relevant) to many customer environment.
With the advent of the End user client computing and cloud computing, VDI Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) has come down over the years in a gradual pace, but yet not that significant. Several organisations especially Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) or smaller, get into a brainstorming scenario as to how to overcome the cost and successfully deploy VDI in their environment. Apart from MS Licensing cost, this is one of the reasons due to which Desktop Virtualisation adoption has not been as rapid as Server Virtualisation. But several OEMs (server hardware and endpoint), VDI vendors have been working together since last few years to bring the VDI cost down but had not been successful. 
Following are the points covered in terms of Reducing TCO, Identify the Components and Scope to explore unconventional approach to implement VDI:
++ Key Areas Of Concerns And Requirements
++ VDI Components And Total Cost
++ VDI Models
++ Datacenter Hardware
++ Open-Source Software (OS, Browser)
++ Endpoint Hardware
++ Microsoft Licensing Gotchas (This topic is vast so requires separate blog, also there are plethora of documents from Microsoft, Brian Madden, PQR (@rspruijt) and several other independent authors)
Key Areas Of Concerns And Requirements:
Recently I was interacting with few customers and found the following are the Key Areas or Requirements or concerns:
1) No purchase of desktop PCs/hardware
2) Security and Control of Data and Usage, results Productivity
3) Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
4) Avoid purchase of newer endpoints such as thin-client, XP refresh cycle
5) Leveraging existing PCs (XP) as thin-clients by installing Free OS (Linux) with tight security policies in-place
6) Adopt RDS (Server OS/Sessions-based) to achieve scalability and lower cost as compared to VDI (Desktop OS/VM-based)
VDI Components And Total Cost:
For organisations who are extremely keen on Cost, Control and Security, one of the approach is to identify the VDI layers and perform a costing of each of the components. Below are the two points to consider to perform a quick cost analysis:
One-time Cost:
Software Cost
> Product Software Suite Cost (CCU-Perpetual License)
> Microsoft Licensing – VDA, RDS CAL or SA Cost
> Microsoft Licensing SQL Database Cost
> Microsoft Licensing Desktop or Server OS Cost
> MS Office or similar application license (per access device)
>Endpoint Management & Monitoring Solution Cost (E.g. Mcafee ePO or similar sometimes this is included with the VDI Product Suite/bundle)
Hardware Cost
> Endpoint Cost – Thin/Zero-Client
Recurring Cost (Yearly or Every 3-4 years depending on your Product Life Cycle):
> Maintenance & Support – Endpoint
> Maintenance & Support – VDI software
> MS RDS/VDA CAL (per user or device per year)
Note: This report DOES NOT include Infrastructure Hardware/Datacenter Cost [Server/Storage/Network(switches/routers/bandwidth)]
VDI Models:
Depending on your environment, use-case(s) below are the various VDI models available with the primary VDI vendors. Choosing the model will make an impact on your TCO in terms of MS Licensing, SLA and your roadmap in the End-User Computing:
1) Citrix Flexcast – Hosted Shared, Hosted VDI (Random/Static), Remote PC, Streamed VHD
2) Microsoft RD Virtualisation Host (RDVH aka Desktop Virtualisation), RD Session Host (RDSH aka App & Session Virtualisation)
3) VMware Horizon Linked Clones or RDSH
Datacenter Hardware:
Few factors which can have significant  impact on reducing the Total VDI Cost from hardware perspective:
1) Leveraging Existing PCs (XP machines) instead of buying Thin/Zero Clients with monitors.
2) Leveraging Existing Virtual Infrastructure (vSphere, XenServer or Hyper-V) to host the VDI servers. Shared Virtual Infrastructure (with separate VDI Cluster), Shared database (with separate VDI database instance), Adding the VDI environment to the Existing monitoring and/or management solution.
3) Leveraging Existing Storage (DAS/NAS/SAN)
4) Leveraging Existing Network (Switches, VLANs and any other network related components depending on your environment)
Open-source Software – OS and Web-browser):
When you think of implementing VDI in your environment keeping your tight budget in mind, you may need to dig within all of the VDI layers and identify potential items where you can reduce cost without compromising Security. The first thing that comes to mind is where can I leverage open-source software and existing hardware. Also, the way you decide will reflect your SLA to the customers. So basically setting expectations to the customer in terms of High-availability, Scalability, Performance. Having said that, following are the few indicators that can be considered to save you cost:
1)  Free Linux OS on Endpoints such as Ubuntu, Chrome OS, CentOS etc.
2) Free Web-browser such as Chrome, Firefox compatible with Linux OS as well as Vendor Native Clients (Citrix Receiver, RDP, View Client)
Note: If Endpoint runs on FREE Linux OS (e.g. Cr OS Linux (link), Ubuntu, CentOS desktop version), you may need to test/validate if the native client to access VDI is compatible/supported and/or simple works. Good part is most of these VDI vendors have solutions that support  HTML5, so testing/validation of web browsers (Chrome/Firefox etc.) needs to be done on Linux OS.
Endpoint Hardware OR Access Device – Thin/Zero-Client:
1) Windows Thin PC (WinTPC) – By using WinTPC on your existing XP machines, you can save cost if the machines are covered under an ‘active’ Software Assurance(SA).  If you do NOT have active SA on existing PCs, you need to buy either Windows VDA OR Windows Intune subscription which is additional Cost (100 USD per device/per year)
2) Reload ‘striped-down version’ of a Free Linux OS on your existing machine. Test/validate your VDI solution with a POC.
Microsoft VDI Licensing is one of the area where customers usually get confused due to its bewildering legal and licensing gotchas which needs hours of study through various MS documents to understand and identify the licenses that you require based on your environment and S&S EULA (Support and Subscription End User License Agreement). The scenario becomes a ‘bit’ relaxed if your existing PCs are having active Software Assurance (SA). In that case, your existing PCs (unused) can be configured as WinTPC (Windows ThinPC) can be at NO COST  thus saving cost on buying new Endpoints.
Having said that, on an entirely different roadmap, customers are also exploring various other VDI Vendors who provide Linux Sessions, Apps and Desktops. Since Linux is freely available (open source) it does reduce COST drastically, minus MS OS & Server Licenses. But these solutions does lack maturity and no solid roadmap, marketing and in some case support (usually ones which are open source). Per my opinion, they can make a mark if they tie-up with big giants in this space – MS, Citrix or VMWare.
Will continue to share more of my thoughts and experiences in the coming weeks…..

About cloudray

Predominantly based around Virtualization, but will include other technology related information and anything else I find interesting and feel the need to share with you. I also use this Blog as both a place to store useful information that I think that will come in handy to me at some point in the future, and also a place to help aid my learning. I find a great way to learn about something is to research about it and then write it up in my own words. I'm Pushpal Ray, from India. As a certified VCP3/4/5 professional, I am currently working as an Independent Consultant. Over 10 years of IT-industry experience, currently focused around the Desktop Virtualization(End-User Computing). I also have extensive experience in Windows Administration, Datacenter Migration, Workload profiling & benchmarking. At my leisure, I enjoy hiking, running, photography, spend hours in my fav coffee shop & spend quality time with my wife. Occasionally, catch up with few friends for a drink!
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