Where legacy VDI fails
Platform Insights

Where legacy VDI fails

Abhishek Singh
Abhishek Singh

When legacy VDI hit the scene, it was a revolutionary concept: users could be completely isolated from their environment and machines, with the ability to jump between them with no loss in performance seamlessly.

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The concept of virtualizing desktops was initially popularized by Citrix Systems in the early 2000s when it launched its XenDesktop platform. And subsequently, several large corporations started deploying VDI solutions for their remote workforce.

But now? After years of being hauled back into the light by businesses that recognize that customers demand a more integrated experience and are willing to pay for it (and then some). With new technologies like AI-powered virtual assistants and hardware-assisted graphics processing units (GPUs), legacy VDI has become… less remarkable.

Perhaps it’s relevant to discuss how IDC released an op-ed last year, claiming that legacy VDI will soon be a thing of the past. It's still great if you need to run old software on an old computer—but if you want to run more modern apps? It's not going to cut it anymore.

Legacy VDI is plagued with shortcomings in meeting the changing needs of remote workers. Further, the high up-front costs and complex management make it difficult to justify the investment, especially compared to newer, more flexible solutions.

Obsolescence

How providers developed the technology explains why legacy VDI is falling short of remote workers' expectations. It was designed for on-premises data centers and is not well-suited for cloud-based deployments. As a result, it requires significant bandwidth and compute resources, making it complex and difficult to manage and a poor fit for today's remote work environment.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to why it is failing, as the specific failures of legacy VDI will vary depending on the organization and its specific needs. However, some common problems with legacy VDI affect virtually all use cases.

Inflexibility

With legacy VDI, it is often difficult to introduce changes to the system without impacting users or disrupting the business. The primary disadvantage of VDI is the potential for increased complexity and management overhead, as each desktop image must be managed and maintained separately.

In addition, VDI can require more storage and networking capacity than traditional desktop deployments. And perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to flexibility is the inability of some legacy applications to work well in a virtual desktop environment, requiring organizations to maintain both physical and virtual desktop images.

Barriers to scalability

Legacy VDI systems often need to be designed to scale more easily, making it difficult to add new users or increase capacity. There are several barriers to scalability with legacy VDI:

Lack of hardware virtualization support

Many legacy VDI solutions do not support hardware virtualization, making it difficult to scale beyond a few hundred virtual desktops.

Lack of storage virtualization

Legacy VDI solutions often do not include storage virtualization, making it difficult to add more storage capacity or replicate data for disaster recovery.

Lack of networking virtualization

Without networking virtualization, it can be difficult to add more networking capacity or to segment networking traffic for security purposes.

Lack of management tools

Without adequate management tools, monitoring and managing a large number of virtual desktops can be difficult.

Suggested read: Elaborate Engineering with Neverinstall: Reactive and pre-emptive scaling

Complexity

Legacy VDI systems are complex, making them difficult to manage and maintain. Because VDI was designed to be a one-to-one mapping of physical to virtual desktops, it does not easily scale to accommodate more users or demanding workloads. This means that when you have to make a change, it can be difficult and time-consuming—and sometimes even impossible—to implement.

For example, If you're running Windows XP, you have to find a way to get your new workstation up and running with all the latest updates and patches to run VDI. Then, once you get your new computer up and running, you have to figure out how to set up the whole thing so that every time someone logs in from their phone or tablet, they can access all their files and applications.

Managing VDI is a ton of work—and it's not necessarily because of how complicated the technology is; it's because of how much effort goes into ensuring everything works properly. If your company has dozens or even hundreds of employees working remotely, you must update more people on security and hardware. That means support calls (which can be expensive), training sessions (which take time), and updating software across multiple platforms (which takes time as well). Moreover, it becomes trickier to troubleshoot with VDI, especially in larger environments.

Even if it's possible to make changes to your legacy VDI system, you may still be dealing with old, unsupported applications and operating systems on your network that don't play nice with modern versions of virtual desktops. This can lead to performance issues and a poor user experience.

Inadequate performance

Legacy VDI has become a bottleneck for business productivity. It's common for companies to have hundreds of virtual desktops running on their servers at any given time, but these systems can't scale up or down. Consequently, legacy VDI systems often deliver poor performance, impacting user productivity.

Legacy VDI systems have been designed for the physical server to run the VM. The VM has no control over the physical server, and the VM cannot be stopped or restarted without affecting other virtual machines on the same physical host. To scale, you must first reconfigure your legacy VDI infrastructure with newer technologies like GPU acceleration and high-performance storage.

The primary issues with the design of VDI are:

  • VMs start slowly when they first start up because they need to copy their state from the previous session. This takes a long time, leading to poor performance until everything has finished copying over.
  • If a host fails while there are still VMs running on it, users will lose those VMs forever because they were stored only in memory and not saved anywhere else (like an external hard drive).

There are several potential causes for the poor performance of legacy VDI, but some of the most common include the following:

Lack of adequate resources

The performance will suffer if the underlying infrastructure is not properly sized or configured to support the load placed on it by virtual desktop users. This can be due to insufficient CPU, memory, storage capacity, or poor network connectivity.

Inefficient use of resources

Even if the infrastructure has enough capacity to support the load, VDI may not use it efficiently. The reasons can range from inefficient algorithms to resource contention and various other factors.

Misconfigured virtual desktop settings

Incorrectly configured virtual desktop settings can also lead to issues with the experience. This includes incorrect graphics settings, bad resource allocations, or networking configuration.

Poor application design

Some applications are simply not well suited for virtualization and can cause performance problems. This is often due to inefficient use of resources, poor multi-tasking support, or other factors.

Cost containment

Legacy VDI systems can be expensive to implement and maintain. Although the cost of legacy VDI will vary depending on the organization's specific needs, some potential issues that increase the cost of legacy VDI include the following:

  • The need to purchase additional hardware to support the legacy VDI environment.
  • The need to purchase additional software licenses to support the legacy VDI environment.
  • The need to train staff on how to use the legacy VDI environment.
  • The need to support the legacy VDI environment over time, including patching and upgrading software as needed.

Security

Security is one of the biggest challenges with legacy VDI today. The primary concerns of legacy VDI are;

  • The potential for data breaches which can occur when sensitive data is stored in the cloud or when users access their desktops remotely; and
  • The reliance on third-party providers, which pose a security risk if they do not have adequate security measures in place.

However, the architecture of VDI and the way the technology is developed poses several challenges to the security of enterprise data and applications. The primary security concerns of legacy VDI are the same as they are for any other type of deployment. However, they can be exacerbated by the fact that many organizations still rely on legacy IT infrastructure.

These concerns include the following:

Policy management

Security policies and procedures that are not in place or not followed, which could allow for unauthorized access to sensitive data or systems.

Vendor lock-in

A security solution designed for one vendor's product will not work with another vendor's product, making it difficult to switch from one vendor's product to another. The lock-in prevents organizations from moving to secure providers in due time.

Lack of visibility and control

With legacy VDI, organizations often lack visibility into what is happening on their virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). This can make it difficult to troubleshoot issues, identify potential security threats, identify flaws in the architecture, and deploy control measures in time.

Compatibility issues

Legacy VDI solutions can often be incompatible with newer software and hardware versions. This can make it difficult for organizations to upgrade their VDI infrastructure or use new technologies to make systems more secure.

Application streaming and the way forward

Application streaming enables users to access applications on a remote computer. Remote servers stream the application to the user's device, and the user interacts with the application through the user interface on their local device.

Suggested read: Familiar in the Cloud: Streaming the native desktop experience to your browser

When pegged against legacy VDI, Application streaming is a significantly more efficient and effective way to deliver applications to users.

A fundamental comparison

With legacy VDI the remote computer acts as an extension of the local system, providing users with an experience similar to that of using a traditional desktop or laptop computer. The idea behind legacy VDI is that it allows organizations to reduce costs associated with providing remote access and increase productivity by providing a consistent, native experience across all devices. However, this comes at the cost of performance and responsiveness because each machine requires its own dedicated resources (e.g., RAM) for each user session; this can cause issues when multiple users are logged into one machine at once.

Further, with legacy VDI, the user's desktop is served from the data center, and they need to connect to that application with their virtual machine. This requires them to pay attention to the performance of their connection, which can be slow or even impossible in some cases.

On the other hand, with application streaming, applications are deployed directly to the end user's machine without needing an additional client. This means that there is no hardware requirement, and it also means that users need not be dependent on any specific hardware or software configuration.

Application streaming also reduces network traffic by eliminating the need for remote access to a host server. This results in lower latency, reduced training requirements, and improved user experience.

With application streaming, the user's desktop is served directly from the application server. And they can connect just by clicking on a link. Moreover, users don’t need to worry about how fast their connection is because it doesn't matter! The server will stream any content you want instantly, so there's no way for you to slow things down.

Making the call

Today, businesses can take advantage of the benefits of virtual desktops to improve their employees' productivity, reduce costs, and increase efficiency. However, managing legacy virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is costly, tedious, and time-consuming.

On the other hand, application streaming allows businesses to access their applications without having to purchase new hardware or install them on a server. By using application streaming instead of legacy VDI, businesses can save money on hardware costs while also benefiting from increased flexibility in terms of mobility and scalability.

Learn more: Application streaming: Where it has taken us

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