Virtualization is a relatively new concept that puts all of the operations of every computer within a company into a centrally-managed data center, allowing that company to save significantly on IT maintenance and quickly change or upgrade the resources used by the firm. Basically, instead of running 50 computers (as an example), each with its own processor, its own RAM, and its own hard drive, you’re running 50 monitors, keyboards, and mice connected to a large server that manages what the person working on the computer sees on the screen. This means that every interaction an employee in your company does on his or her computer isn’t actually happening on the workstation. Instead, it’s being forwarded into a central server that runs several of these virtual operating system environments in one spot simultaneously.
Instead of having 30 computers with 500-Watt power supplies running around the clock, you can split everything into three monster servers with 1000-Watt power supplies. When you do the math, you end up saving a significant amount of money in electricity alone. Aside from that, you also save on hardware costs, maintenance, and time. The hardware costs come down because you now only have to buy and upgrade the hardware for one single unit; the maintenance costs go down because you only have to replace what’s broken on one computer instead of 20, or 50; and you save a lot of time walking to a server to troubleshoot something instead of walking all over the office, scrambling after which computer decided to commit suicide.
There are currently two very easy-to-use platforms that let you virtualize the desktops within your company with a minimally-complex setup: XenDesktop (XD) and VDI in a Box (ViaB). Both of them come from Citrix, but only one may be right for you. Let’s help you choose:
- ViaB is a very simple and wizard-based virtualization engine that easily allows you to create copies of one virtual machine onto a number of guest desktop clients. XD, on the other hand, has deeper and more complex functionality, allowing administrators to create their own scripts to automatically create new desktops and collect metrics.
- XD has a problem supporting large numbers of desktops, while ViaB can scale up to thousands of machines across several hypervisor hosts. A hypervisor is basically one of the software applications (such as VMWare vSphere) that run on a server to allow it to host multiple desktops within one centralized environment. If you’re planning on expanding, use ViaB.
- ViaB requires less maintenance and, therefore, doesn’t generally cost as much as XD does to run within a large infrastructure.
To sum it all up: If you’re weigh the ability to configure in-depth algorithms for automation above cost, choose XenDesktop. If you’re looking for a simple, straightforward, less costly, and scalable solution, VDI in a Box is your best bet.