What is VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)?

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a software tool to centrally create and manage virtual desktops. Virtual desktops are software applications that mimic real desktop computers. VDI technology creates a virtual desktop on a central server, and remote users can access this desktop from any physical machine over the internet. VDI quickly and efficiently sets up many virtual desktops to provide secure remote access to internal business applications and services. Thus, using VDI, you can cost effectively and flexibly scale up any enterprise desktop infrastructure.

What are the benefits of VDI?

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) brings many benefits to desktop management. Virtual desktops are more convenient to manage and scale than physical desktops. For example, you can do the following tasks.

Manage virtual desktops centrally

VDI brings centralized management to your virtual desktop environment. Administrators can patch, update, and change multiple virtual desktops at the same time. They can also save and back up desktop data for disaster recovery.

Scale VDI as needed

Since all VDI sits on a central system, you can easily scale it up or down. You can make it more flexible by hosting in the cloud. You can use a cloud service provider to deploy and manage thousands of virtual desktops without having to worry about underlying hardware costs.

Increase accessibility

You can access virtual desktop environments from anywhere and on any device. This improves user experience because you can bring your own device to the workplace or gain seamless remote access from any location. VDI creates a highly personalized digital workspace, making it more convenient to work from home or remotely.

Maintain internal security standards

The VDI environment is highly secure because the entire infrastructure is under enterprise control. Sensitive data from multiple virtual desktops sit on a single physical server. You can secure this centrally managed server or host server to meet internal standards. Remote workers can access the data from any device by following suitable authentication processes. The remote machines do not pose a security risk, even if they are lost or stolen.

Lower costs 

VDI technology brings down IT expenditure because it reduces the hardware costs of purchasing new traditional desktops. It also reduces ongoing management costs because you can maintain virtual desktops by using software processes.

What is VDI used for?

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has several use cases across different industries that employ remote workers, contractors, field technicians, and kiosk workers. We give some example use cases below.

Call centers

Call center employees use VDI solutions to access specific information and tools that they use to complete remote assistance tasks. This helps them streamline efficiency and reduce costs.

Remote work

Geographically dispersed employees use virtual environments to access the company network, applications, and resources without compromising security.

Regulatory compliance

Heavily regulated industries use VDI to secure confidential information. Remote data centers store sensitive information, and employees use virtual desktops to access it. This eliminates the problem of incorrect data access.

Third-party access

Contractors, business associates, and partner services sometimes require access to internal company systems. However, supplying company-owned hardware can be expensive, especially for shorter projects. A VDI environment is an ideal solution that minimizes security risk and gives efficient access to third parties.

How does VDI work?

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has a software layer that abstracts desktop functions, including the operating system functions. Virtualization technology decouples the operating system from the physical desktop. A software application acts as your desktop, on which you can install any operating system and applications. A VDI is a type of remote desktop virtualization because the virtual desktop is remote to the end user.

For example, typically, Microsoft Windows desktops are physical machines with Microsoft Windows installed on them. However, virtualized desktops could have a Linux desktop sitting on a Windows server machine. You could access this Linux desktop from your Mac computer without having to install Linux on your machine.

A VDI environment consists of two main components: a virtual machine and a connection broker.

Virtual machine

Virtual machines are the foundation of any desktop virtualization solution. They are machines within machines. A software machine runs on an underlying physical machine or host server. The hypervisor is the software that makes this possible. It partitions the host server into many virtual servers with their own operating systems. These virtual machines use the hypervisor to access the memory, CPU, and other resources of the host server. They create individual virtual desktop environments that end users can connect with remotely.

Connection broker

The connection broker is the software that facilitates the remote connection between end users and the hypervisor-installed server. When a user connects to the remote desktop services, this software layer authenticates the user and gives them access to their virtual desktop environment. It also facilitates interactions between the remote user and the virtual desktop. For example, the connection broker provides screen updates and sends mouse clicks and keystrokes to the virtual desktop.

What are the types of VDI?

There are two types of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployment methods: persistent VDI and nonpersistent VDI:

Persistent VDI deployment

Persistent VDI deployments are remote desktops that are saved for individual end users. Multiple users have persistent desktops that they can customize and reuse repeatedly.

Nonpersistent VDI deployment

Nonpersistent VDI deployments are single-use desktop instances. The centralized server creates a new generic desktop for every user and then destroys the desktop after use. Nonpersistent desktops are cost effective when organizations have a large workforce using business applications for repetitive administrative tasks. For example, call center employees require a standard set of applications for their work. Any data they create is stored remotely in the business application. You can set up a new nonpersistent VDI for them in every session, and it will not cause them to lose any work.

What are desktop images?

A desktop image is another term for virtual desktops. It's a desktop template file that defines the operating system, configuration, and applications on the remote desktop. Golden images are standardized desktop images that administrators use to quickly deploy the same desktop for multiple users. Administrators use virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) management software to manage the images in a central repository, such as by assigning them to users, maintaining different versions, or configuring system updates.

What are cloud-native virtualized desktops?

In cloud-native virtualized desktops, the remote virtual desktop is hosted on a server in the cloud. A cloud-hosted virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution has all the advantages of cloud infrastructure, such as:

  • Pay-per-use service
  • Ability to scale up or down as required
  • Lower hardware investment

Two types of VDI services use cloud infrastructure: fully managed and desktop as a service.

Fully managed VDI service

Fully managed VDI service is VDI management software that is available as a cloud-based service for your administrators. The service supports administrators by providing features like existing desktop image templates, built-in security and data encryption, and management of operating system licenses. Administrators perform the deployment, monitoring, application life cycle management, and other tasks to implement the service for your organization.

Desktop as a service

Desktop as a service is a third party that supports the implementation of managed VDI services. They deploy the fully managed service for your organization and also take over administration responsibilities, reducing the need for in-house IT capabilities. For example, Virtusa Desktop-as-a-Service is a scalable and flexible turnkey solution that you can deploy in just three days to allow your entire global organization to immediately begin working remotely. It supplies a full set of services, such as application lifecycle management, endpoint delivery, and ongoing VDI monitoring. Virtusa uses Amazon WorkSpaces as its managed cloud infrastructure.

What is Amazon WorkSpaces?

Amazon WorkSpaces is a fully managed desktop virtualization service for Windows and Linux. It provides secure, reliable, and scalable access to persistent desktops from any location. You can centrally manage your persistent cloud desktops and stream them to anyone. Users can securely access their desktop through any endpoint device or thin client terminals by using an app or browser.

  • Your users get a better experience and more functionality than with a traditional PC, and you get a simpler way to provision desktops for users.
  • You can get started by selecting one of the Amazon WorkSpaces bundles, which offer different hardware and software options, and then launch the number of WorkSpaces you require.
  • You can maintain full data security and compliance. WorkSpaces provides a familiar desktop experience to the user while the data remains on AWS or in your on-premises environment.
  • You can provide each user with access to varying amounts of persistent storage (SSD volumes) on AWS. The system automatically and regularly backs up data that you store on the user volume in WorkSpaces to Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

Get started with VDI by creating an AWS account today.

AWS next steps

Check out additional product-related resources
Learn more about end user computing services 
Sign up for a free account

Instant get access to the AWS Free Tier.

Sign up 
Start building in the console

Get started building in the AWS management console.

Sign in