virtual desktop

What is a virtual desktop?

A virtual desktop is a workstation that exists virtually and can be accessed from any location via the internet. The virtual desktop has an image of an operating system which is shared by other virtual machines on a central network.

Virtual desktops on the rise

As remote work and hybrid work become widely adopted, businesses have increasingly turned to virtual desktops to support their dispersed workforces. IT departments have implemented virtual office environments with tens, hundreds or thousands of virtual desktops in operation. 

Central management delivers security

These virtual desktops have an operating system “imaged” onto them so they function using a system that’s hosted and shared elsewhere on a data centre. And because the data centre is physically hosted in a different location and centrally managed, virtual desktops can be more secure than a physical office, where multiple computers must be managed separately.

What are the different types of virtual desktops?

Desktop virtualisation can be accomplished in five ways. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses, so the individual use case must be carefully considered to ensure success.

  • Operating System Provisioning – A method where the operating system is sent to either a virtual machine in the data centre or an actual machine on a physical desktop. In either case, constant connection to the data centre is required, so laptop use is not recommended and actual desktops may need significant hardware support.
  • Remote Desktop Services (RDS) – When virtualisation is accomplished in a data centre, freeing up resources for the client. Here, only one instance of an application or operating system is hosted on a shared server, so RDS is quite economical.
  • Client hypervisors – When a client has a hypervisor directly on a desktop, which allows for running multiple virtual machines at once. While local hardware generally performs better than anything data server-hosted, it’s unlikely that the client’s hypervisor will have the hardware to support it. That means the VM is unlikely to function on it.
  • Client-side hosted virtual desktops – Where the virtual machines are positioned to run on top of the operating system, allowing anywhere, anytime access. This means that essentially there are two operating systems in play here, which increases the chance that the VMs will work. However, using this method often requires intense system administrator training/acceptance.
  • Application virtualisation – When the applications are isolated from the user’s operating system and run completely independently. This separation allows a variety of applications to run on the same platform at the same time without interfering with each other. Using a container to deliver the “basket” of applications, administrators can manage the organisation’s application pool more efficiently.

What are the benefits of virtual desktops?

Inherently flexible and user-friendly, virtual desktops offer many advantages.

  • Security – A huge benefit to organisations, each device is isolated from sensitive data and proprietary resources, so any loss or theft does not compromise either.
  • Management – Because the virtual desktops are managed centrally, they can be quickly updated and maintained across every far-flung location.
  • Flexibility – Administrators can quickly allocate and set up virtual desktops, alleviating the need to provision physical devices that may not be needed for long.
  • Cost – Without much need for maintenance or physical equipment, virtual desktops offer a distinct cost advantage.
  • Computing power – The actual power running the virtual desktops comes from the data control centre, which is much more powerful than the “thin” clients that are typically used.
  • Productivity – Some studies indicate that remote work can increase employee efficiency and thus productivity.
  • Recovery – Another important advantage of isolating end devices from data and applications is that all of those resources are stored centrally and backed up regularly.

What’s the difference between virtual desktops and virtual machines?

A few simple differences separate a virtual desktop from virtual machines.

First, a virtual machine is merely a file that is operating like a physical computer.  A VM has its own CPU, storage, memory and network interface so that it functions as a computer within a computer. However, a VM still needs some physical hardware, such as a hypervisor, RAM hard disk and network interface. Nevertheless, a VM uses the operating system just as a physical machine does, so the user experience is nearly identical. In addition, because the operating system remains separate, a VM can simultaneously run applications and processes that otherwise would interfere with each other.

A virtual desktop is created by virtual machines. A virtual desktop mirrors the usability of a physical computer without all the structures that even a virtual machine has (CPU, storage, memory, etc.). A virtual desktop takes all the elements of a physical workspace and stores them on a server. The experience of using a virtual desktop is essentially the same as using a physical computer.

How do virtual desktops improve work?

As organisations rapidly expand their virtual workplaces, you can learn from the following applications no matter what industry your enterprise serves:

Education: Universidad Americana faced increased demand for more virtual education offerings and deployed a new composable infrastructure to improve its IT agility. With this change, the university was able to respond quickly to academic demands, reduce IT costs and improve user experience. Their use of automation allowed them to rapidly deliver virtual servers and desktops for students everywhere, freeing up staff to focus on innovation rather than IT administration.

Construction: When a large retailer remodelled their stores, rather than sending a person to inspect the work being done, they used augmented reality (AR) so the person could see the physical space remotely. AR allowed project workers to walk the store so inspectors could experience the site from a realistic, 3D perspective. Because of this, the retailer was able to limit most of the travel needed for multiple inspections.

Telemedicine: Using virtual solutions can expand the reach of today’s healthcare teams and provide patients with safer, more immediate care when and how they need it. Working in virtual environments allows staff to ensure security for patient records and mobilise and secure medical imaging files. A virtual environment offers the speed and precision to improve medical outcomes and enhance clinical experiences – to the point of personalising care to manage more complex cases.

Facilities maintenance: Virtual desktops are even suited for repair and maintenance of on-site equipment. For example, when a worker at a facility needs to repair or maintain a piece of unfamiliar equipment, they can connect to a more knowledgeable technician in a remote workplace. The worker can wear a headset and be guided on an operation just as if the expert technician were physically working alongside them. The remote person can see what the on-site staff member is seeing and direct them appropriately. They can also draw circles around things in the visual field or type in the field of view to help the local person focus on parts that need to be worked on. 

Design your agile workspace with HPE’s expertise

HPE delivers the right solutions for every challenge with the world’s most secure platforms. With HPE, you can rapidly deploy VDI solutions such as the following:

ProLiant Rack: Modernise your data centre with HPE’s rack-optimised servers that deliver performance, resiliency and scalability for core business-to-business-critical workloads. The ProLiant rack offers next-gen performance with a performance gain of up to 60% and a 27% increase in cores. You also get the benefit of automatically optimised workload profiles and server resources and automatically resolved IT issues with HPE InfoSight predictive analytics AI and HPE iLO5.

Synergy: Synergy is the first composable, software-defined infrastructure for hybrid cloud environments. It enables you to compose fluid pools of physical and virtual compute, storage and fabric resources into any configuration for any workload under a unified API, all available as a service through HPE.

Moonshot: The HPE Moonshot System uses an innovative new architecture that aligns purpose-built modules with the right workload to provide optimal results for your dedicated hosting environment. Unlike traditional servers, the Moonshot system combines chassis components that handle management, networking, storage, power cables and cooling fans in a single chassis. It is capable of supporting 45 servers per 4.3U chassis. This allows you to generate greater revenue from a smaller footprint while driving down your operational costs.

VMware®: HPE Client Virtualization with VMware Horizon View allows you to reduce business risk and lower the complexity and cost of desktop management, while continuing to provide end users with the functionality of a standalone desktop. It is a desktop replacement solution that provides IT teams with the flexibility to quickly deliver and refresh desktops regardless of device.

Citrix: HPE brings its innovative and proven architectures for the data centre cloud and edge together with Citrix secure digital workspaces to unify access to the apps and data people need to be more productive. The Citrix partnership with HPE enables your IT to securely deploy and manage modern digital workspaces faster and easier and helps organisations deliver the right outcomes from their apps, data and infrastructure.