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What is VDI?

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With an increasing number of universities and colleges switching to remote learning, many organizations are searching for new solutions to support distance learning and assist students in achieving successful results.

One of the most popular options is VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), which offers an efficient solution for bridging the gap, via straightforward remote server access.

What is VDI?

What is virtual desktop infrastructure?

So, what does VDI mean?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is a form of technology that hosts virtual desktop environments via a remote server. VDI technology segments the servers into various virtual desktop solutions, which an endpoint device can access upon request.

VDI solutions are controlled by management software which is hosted on Virtual Machines. This allows access to the virtualized environment from any location. By separating the desktop operating system from the physical desktop, it is possible for multiple users to gain remote access to their traditional machine and familiar desktop image. For example, students, in particular, will be able to access on-campus resources while working from home.

There are two types of VDI environments:

  • Persistent
  • Non-persistent
The choice of environment is usually dependent on the resources available, such as budget, server infrastructure or storage capacity.

Persistent VDI offers each user their own virtualized desktop, often referred to as a one-to-one ratio, which allows each desktop to be customized.

Non-persistent VDI desktops are shared between multiple end users and any personalization will revert back to the basic design once a user logs out.



Components involved with VDI

The overall function of VDI depends on several main components:

  • Virtualization
  • The hypervisor
  • The connection broker
  • Application virtualization

Let’s take a closer look at those elements:

Virtualization

Desktop virtualization divides the system into separate layers, which allows the hardware and the operating system to be separated using hypervisor software. This ensures that if a single piece of hardware crashes, the operating system is unaffected.

Hypervisor

The hypervisor creates a virtual environment that divides the hardware into separate virtual machines, each with its own desktop instance, configuration, and applications.

The hypervisor can also connect to multiple servers so, if one fails, the desktop connection moves automatically to another server.

Connection broker

Connection broker software allows users to connect to desktop instances via an authentication process. The software monitors users and will place connected users in an idle or inactive state if the user disconnects.

It’s also possible to group similar desktops into desktop pools, which can be configured based on the needs of the group. For example, within a university situation, the IT, finance, teaching, and library departments could all be provided with different desktop configurations depending on their software requirements.

Application virtualization technology

The final component is application virtualization technology which replicates the application image across each virtual desktop within a specific pool. This ensures users can access their VDI desktop quickly and easily.


How does VDI work?

When the end-user logs into the client software, the connection broker receives the request and authenticates their access. The user is then directed to their desktop pool and the hypervisor creates various Virtual Machines that host the virtual desktop.

Once access is gained, the desktop image is sent to all other connection desktops via cloning, with linked cloning saving space on the server. Alternatively, full cloning allows desktops to function independently without linking to the master desktop.

If the server runs short of capacity, admin will be able to remove inactive users from their virtual desktop to make space for new connections. The VDI software will allow admin to control all aspects of the VDI, such as creating new desktop pools, setting up usage policies, and providing new desktops.


How VDI is used within higher education

Virtual desktop infrastructure is an excellent option for any education setting which is trying to improve the efficiency of remote learning. With many higher education students being taught remotely either part of the time or all of the time, the main benefit of VDI is the ability to access a virtual desktop remotely from any device.

This access allows students to use their own laptops, computers and even smartphones, without having to purchase their own software, which is in keeping with many universities’ Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. You can find out more about BYOD here.

Instead of each student needing to purchase potentially expensive software to complete their assigned coursework, they can simply log in to a remote desktop and use the university’s software. This means all resources available on campus can be made available off-campus, which helps to improve the overall learning experience.

As the number of students studying remotely increases, VDIs help to provide the access both students and staff need to ensure continuity of education.

Other applications of VDI

There are many other industries and applications outside of higher education which could benefit from VDI. Any area which requires access to a desktop experience could utilize VDI to provide remote access via any device.

Schools

Aside from universities, school environments, in general, could utilize VDI to their advantage. For example, the IT team could provide each pupil with access to their own virtual desktop in terms of subjects and year group.

Corporate environments

There are also many office-based roles across multiple industries that require remote working, such as sales jobs, call centers and admin roles. If home or remote based workers require access to their office-based tools and applications, VDI would provide a secure way to access a consistent desktop experience at any time for any location. This could also be useful for contract employees who may be using their own devices to connect to a company’s infrastructure for a set period of time.

Healthcare

VDI could also provide an extremely convenient solution to healthcare settings, where specific permissions can be incorporated into individual desktops. If privacy is a concern, the VDI solution can be implemented to allow the medical team to view certain records, with the ability to switch between multiple devices at different times of the day.

There’s no doubt that virtual desktop infrastructure is a powerful piece of technology, which is more than capable of delivering any application to almost any remote device. However, there are associated costs and experience levels required to install these solutions.

To find out more about VDI solutions, or any other solutions offered by Software2, please contact our expert team today.

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