Our business is filled with acronyms. And it's important to look beyond the alphabet soup to understand just how important these letters can be when simplifying our organizations' operations.
VDI is another new one. In this world of virtualizing everything, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure -- a.k.a. VDI -- allows a single server to host many virtual desktop sessions, thus enabling any web-based machine to use a controlled desktop environment.
Enterprises are considering implementing VDI for the following main reasons:
- Reduced cost
- Better manageability
- Enhanced security
- Centralized license management
- Ability to deploy browser-based thin clients
- Worldwide access to enterprise applications with excellent performance.
While commercial solutions such as Citrix have been around for a while, the academic community has been deploying a free open-source solution called Virtual Computing Lab, developed at North Carolina State University (NCSU) for several years.
The solution was initially developed to solve the problem of providing students remote access to a virtual lab with the following goals in mind:
Eliminate the need to build expensive computing labs for students with high maintenance costs and only a single configuration on a given machine
- Provide a dedicated compute environment for a limited time
- Allow reservations to use an environment at a preferred time
- World-wide access from any type of browser from any platform
- Let faculty control the operating system type, version, patch level as well as all the loaded software in the environment
- Ability for the user to perform anything within the virtual environment without affecting anyone else
- Enable all users to get a fresh and configuration at login
- Centralized license management
- Better security
The solution developed at NCSU addresses all these goals and much more remarkably well. Notice how similar these goals are to the VDI goals. It is a mature and well-supported product that has been deployed in many large academic institutions. The hardware deployed centrally in a VCL environment would be similar to the hardware needs of a VDI environment. However, VCL could be an excellent software alternative to a commercial VDI software for enterprises -- at a much lower cost. Check out how VCL works by visiting the NCSU website.
Organizations planning to implement VDI should take a look at the NCSU solution and evaluate if it would be an appropriate solution for them. The academic community is rich with many similar innovations, which could be applicable to the business environment.
The open-source Kuali Financial System is another excellent example. In many cases, it is advisable to talk to a few major universities to see how they have approached a particular problem. The additional information can help make a more comprehensive decision and save money. There could be a partnership opportunity with a local major university to even help build a solution. In addition, support for open-source can be challenging for many businesses -- this is another area where businesses may consider partnering with a local major university to solve a business problem.
— Mansur Hasib has served in CIO/CISO and other leadership roles in the public, private, and education sectors.