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“VDIs aren't quite cutting it for us” 

“Not as smooth as we had hoped” 

“Performance gaps are slowing us down”

“It sounds good in theory, but in practice…”

These are some of the responses I got from IT professionals last month at the VMWare Explore in Las Vegas when asked about their take on desktop virtualization solutions. It’s synonymous with most of my conversations with prospects, ex-colleagues, and partners. 

I have been in the technology industry for over two decades now, and have seen a spectrum of technologies come and go. (Remember these?) But the concept of Virtual Desktop Infrastructures, or VDIs keeps me interested for its sheer magnitude, myths, and the wild delusion of it all in 2023. 

In case you are not super familiar with VDIs, here are a few numbers to help you catch up.

However, my conversations with IT experts surfaced insights that numbers alone fail to convey.

I’m going to examine the reality of VDIs — a journey that goes beyond popular statistics and takes the challenges faced by IT professionals, when onboarding a remote workforce, into consideration. I’ll also share why the solution that was invented to empower remote workforces is headed towards obsolescence.

The Reality of VDIs 

Picture this: you're trying to get a remote team set up for work with VDIs. Here’s what that process looks like: 

  • Assess the number of virtual desktops needed based on the size of the team
  • Choose the VDI software and hardware
  • Install and configure the VDI software on the servers
  • Configure storage systems to support virtual desktops
  • Set up networking to ensure reliable connectivity
  • Create a standard virtual desktop image
  • Customize images for specific roles in the remote team
  • Implement secure access controls and authentication methods
  • Configure communication and collaboration platforms
  • Conduct training sessions
  • Scale the infrastructure as the team grows

Overall, the onboarding process can last anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. Now, factoring in the operational overhead costs and complexities, it makes sense why a whopping 80% of projects aimed at using desktop virtualization to save costs end up falling shor of their goals

That's like trying to build a bridge and it collapsing halfway through!

The hardship doesn’t end there. Once you have your VDIs set up, your remote workers onboarded, and ready to take on the world — latency issues emerge. 

Since the 1980s, VDI flag bearers have been pushing the idea of VDI being the future of work but when there's a lag in every click or when your system needs time to open a spreadsheet — it doesn’t seem very futuristic. 

It's like trying to run in a pool of thick syrup…

I have integrated 15+ technology acquisitions during my time at Symantec and BlueCoat and have closely witnessed challenges associated with onboarding workers. 

Even now, when I meet IT professionals, I’m astonished to hear how the pain points have remained the same over the years, and no one is addressing them. They probably have existed since 1980. Which raises the question — why are VDIs failing at their job of making remote work easy, secure, and accessible?

Why are VDIs Failing at Their Job?

VDIs used to be the only solution for workspace modernization. But, the pandemic and sudden shift to remote work for over 48 million people showed us just how many hurdles VDIs can throw our way. 

My conversations with prospects, peers, and partners about the dichotomy of desktop virtualization as it’s portrayed and the reality reminds me of a Reddit user who said: 

“There just wasn't as much flexibility with the VDI's and it was actually pretty expensive to maintain. This contradicts pretty much what they taught me in school.” 

All VDI does is take the existing desktop computer and moves it to the data center. Although it lets users work from anywhere and use their desktop to access company resources, the limitations of this technology are becoming increasingly apparent.

Debunking False Promises of VDIs

VDI flag bearers make wild promises about VDIs. Some of them are true, some are a stretch, and some are just plain misleading. I’m going to dig into these false promises, taking a technical look at some of the common myths around desktop virtualization. 

False Promise #1: VDIs Save Money

The initial investment in VDI tech and infrastructure is higher than what you may expect. Companies have to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for servers, storage, network upgrades, and software licenses. Not to mention the ongoing operational costs for maintaining and upgrading the VDI environment, leading to budget overruns and disappointment.

False Promise #2: VDIs Provide Better Security 

The widespread fallacy that VDIs are more secure relies on its centralized infrastructure that’s touted as easy-to-manage. In reality, it’s a single point of failure. A hardware malfunction or cyberattack on the central infrastructure could make your company the next breach headline. Hackers very-well recognize this vulnerability of VDIs, and target virtual environments with ransomware attacks, leading to data loss and costly downtime.

False Promise #3: Users can work from anywhere, via any device

The goal, in the modern work landscape, is no longer to deliver a desktop to a device. Remote workers want access to files, applications and data from anywhere and from any device in the simplest way possible — and should be able to. VDIs, unfortunately, don’t support that. 

False Promise #4: End User Experience is Awesome

Latency issues and poor connection quality make it nearly impossible for employees to accomplish tasks on time. Graphics-intensive workloads often struggled to run smoothly on some devices, grinding productivity to a halt, and degrading user experience.

False Promise #5: VDIs are Easier to Manage 

Implementing VDI is far from plug-and-play. It needs domain experts who can navigate the complexities of virtualization, including hypervisor management, storage optimization, and network configuration. Managing VDIs is no walk in the park, contrary to the promise of easy-to-manage and -use.

The Future of Work Beyond VDIs

There’s no better way to say it. VDI is not right for every use case. It’s amazing in some niche cases where it makes sense. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t fit in the remote work landscape, that’s becoming mainstream every day. 

The way I see it — for remote work to be absolutely successful and be a secure, flexible, and easily accessible mode of working, technology has to meet remote workers where they are with a platform that is: 

  • Web-based, so it’s easily accessible with any network connection. 
  • One-stop solution that unifies servers, applications, thick clients, etc. 
  • Awesome at providing a smooth user experience.
  • Secure, and has built-in security and access controls to protect sensitive information.
  • Equipped with security and access controls to provide complete observability. 
  • And most importantly, easy to set up, within minutes.

That’s what we’ve tried to build with Sonet.io for all remote teams. 

If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing at Sonet.io, check out my last post where I shared what made me startup and build Sonet.io to empower the modern remote workforce and workplaces.