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Where to deploy VDI? The benefits of on-premises vs. cloud vs. hybrid VDI deployments

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Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has changed the way organizations deliver desktops and applications to their users. One critical decision IT admins face when deploying VDI is whether to deploy it on premises and/or in the public cloud. Each option has its own advantages and considerations, and understanding the factors involved in each can help you make an informed decision. In this blog, I will explore the key points to consider when choosing between on-premises and public cloud VDI deployments, as well as when it makes sense to take the best of both worlds and leverage a hybrid cloud model.

On-premises VDI deployments

Let’s start by defining on-premises VDI. “On-premises” refers to hosting or deploying the virtual desktop infrastructure within your organization’s own data center or private infrastructure or private cloud. Running VDI on premises offers you complete control over hardware, software, and security. You can also customize the environment to your specific needs. In this model, IT admins set up and manage the infrastructure components, including servers, storage, networking, and virtualization technologies. Here, the virtual desktops and apps run on virtual machines (VMs) that are hosted and managed within the data center.

Benefits of on-premises VDI deployments

While cloud-based VDI solutions have gained popularity in recent years, there are still advantages to deploying VDI on premises. Here are reasons to consider keeping your VDI on premises:

  • Control. You have full control over the design, configuration, and management of your VDI infrastructure. You can customize the environment to meet your specific needs, security requirements, and compliance standards. You can deploy the way you want and manage as you see fit to meet your organization’s requirements and goals. 
  • Security and compliance. For organizations with stringent security, privacy, and data compliance requirements, on-premises VDI offers distinct advantages. VDI on premises allows you to maintain data sovereignty within your own data center, providing control over sensitive information and compliance with regulations. This is particularly crucial for industries with heavy regulatory requirements, such as federal and healthcare organizations. 
  • Application co-location. Co-locating desktops and apps can not only meet compliance requirements but also reduce latency. With on-premises VDI, the physical proximity of the virtual desktop infrastructure and applications can optimize performance by reducing latency. Industries with specific latency requirements or where application performance is paramount should consider on-premises deployments.
  • Customization and integration. On-premises VDI allows for extensive customization and integration with your existing infrastructure, applications, and management tools. This flexibility enables you to tailor the virtual desktop environment to your unique requirements and seamlessly integrate with other systems and services. 
  • Expertise and management. For organizations that have VDI expertise in virtualization, networking, storage, and desktop management in-house, on-premises deployment may be a viable option. You can manage the solution yourself and not need to offload the management responsibilities. 

Cloud VDI deployments

Now that we have covered on-premises VDI deployments, let’s define VDI cloud deployments. VDI deployed in the cloud, refers to the deployment of VDI within a public cloud environment. It involves hosting and managing virtual desktops, applications, and associated resources on a cloud infrastructure provided and managed by a third-party service provider. With VDI in the cloud, the virtual desktops run on VMs hosted in the cloud provider’s data centers. The cloud provider takes care of the underlying infrastructure, including hardware, networking, storage, and server virtualization. The organization/IT admin maintains management and control over the VDI/desktop virtualization platform, desktop images, applications, and user policies. Note that desktop as a service (DaaS) is a bit different than VDI in the cloud. DaaS delivers virtual desktops over the cloud and vendors have management responsibilities for the VDI platform and desktops. An example is Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure. In this blog, we’ll focus on VDI in the cloud offerings, for example, Horizon on VMware Cloud on AWS, Azure VMware Solution, Google Cloud VMware Engine, Oracle Cloud VMware Solution, and Alibaba Cloud VMware Solution.

Benefits of cloud VDI deployments

As mentioned, cloud solutions have started gaining traction in the last few years, and all signs point to more growth. VDI cloud solutions provide a streamlined and efficient approach to VDI deployment, management, and accessibility. The following are considerations for deploying in the cloud.

  • Scalability and flexibility. VDI in the cloud allows you to easily scale your virtual desktop infrastructure up or down based on changing user demands. It provides the flexibility to add or remove desktops as needed without the need for significant upfront investments and avoids underutilization of infrastructure when fewer resources are required. 
  • Cost efficiency. VDI in the cloud eliminates the need for you to purchase and maintain your own hardware infrastructure. Instead, you pay for the virtual desktops and resources on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis, reducing capital expenditure and providing cost predictability.
  • Simplified management. With VDI in the cloud, the cloud provider handles infrastructure management tasks, such as hardware maintenance, updates, and security patches. By offloading the management to the cloud provider, admins only need to manage the desktop images, applications, and user policies, freeing up time to focus on more strategic initiatives. 
  • Faster time to value. Cloud-based VDI deployments allow you to quickly provision and deploy virtual desktops when you need them. With the infrastructure and management handled by the cloud provider, there is no need for you to set up and configure the infrastructure. Streamlining this process reduces the time needed to deliver virtual desktops, resulting in a faster time to value. 

Hybrid cloud VDI deployments: The best of both worlds

Now that I’ve covered on-premises/private cloud and public VDI deployments, it’s time to cover hybrid cloud. Let’s start with the definition. A hybrid cloud is a combination of both private and public clouds, where data and applications can be shared between them. With a hybrid cloud solution, you have the flexibility to determine where your applications and data are hosted based on your specific requirements, such as security, compliance, performance, scale, and cost. You can leverage the scalability and cost-effectiveness of the public cloud while retaining control of critical apps on premises. 

Benefits of hybrid cloud VDI deployments

You do not have to put yourself in the either on-premises or public cloud debate. Instead, leverage both to meet your organizational requirements. These are the benefits you can realize from going hybrid:

  • Business continuity and disaster recovery. By leveraging a hybrid model, you can use the public cloud as a secondary site in case of disruptions. You can utilize the redundancy and backup mechanisms offered by the cloud provider without having to go through the expense of building your own secondary site. In the event of a hardware failure or disaster, virtual desktops and data can be quickly restored, ensuring minimal downtime and data loss.
  • Data center extension or burst. You can easily extend your desktop workloads between on-premises and the public cloud. This allows you to dynamically scale your desktop and application capacity as needed to accommodate fluctuating end-user capacity demands, such as enabling remote staff, contractors, M&A, and seasonal workers. 
  • Global expansion. Using a hybrid cloud allows you to expand into new geographical locations. By leveraging a cloud provider’s extensive network of data centers distributed across various regions worldwide, you can expand your reach into new locations without the need to establish your own data center. You can deliver virtual desktops and apps to users in their location, ensuring low latency and compliance with data sovereignty requirements. 
  • Cost optimization. You can optimize costs by leveraging the public cloud when you need more capacity for your VDI workloads. Instead of investing in and maintaining expensive on-premises infrastructure, you can use the cost-effective pay-as-you-go model of the public cloud. You only pay for the resources you consume.

Supporting your VDI deployment needs with VMware Horizon

When it comes to meeting diverse deployment scenarios, Horizon delivers unmatched value. With an agile cloud-based infrastructure, we provide organizations with the scalability and flexibility required to adapt to their evolving business requirements. With a range of deployment options, including on-premises, hybrid, and multi-cloud, Horizon allows you to leverage the cloud at your own pace. You can start with an on-premises deployment and expand to the public cloud when you’re ready. 

The Horizon Control Plane and its corresponding services allow you to connect and manage your deployments across different data centers and clouds from a single pane of glass. The Horizon Control Plane Services provide access to essential management tools — such as image and app management, universal brokering, and monitoring — that enable the efficient deployment and administration of virtual desktops and apps from on-premises to the cloud.

If you are interested in learning more about the value of Horizon, I invite you to review “The Business Value of VMware Horizon” to see how other organizations are realizing a return on their investment with Horizon.

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