virtual desktop infrastructure

Developers have been using virtualisation technologies for years, so they’re nothing new. But with companies of all shapes and sizes embracing cloud technology, they are gaining traction as demand for secure, scalable and affordable IT infrastructure increases.

Some terms that people may have come across regarding virtualisation are virtual machines, desktop virtualisation and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). But what are they, how are they related and what are the differences between them?

This article discusses the differences and will help organisations understand what their IT departments are talking about.

What is the difference between Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and Virtual Machines?

All desktop virtualization technology begins with a virtual machine (VM), and they are what a virtual desktop infrastructure leverages to manage virtual applications and virtual desktops. A VM is an entire operating system that runs inside an application or file and behaves exactly like a physical computer. It has its own virtual resources, including a CPU, storage, display, serial ports, memory and so on.

This VM or guest machine can be used to run a desktop environment. A hypervisor creates a sandbox that separates the VM from the rest of a system. It treats the resources that the actual physical hardware has available as a pool and relocates them between however many VMs may be running.

The operating system (OS) on each VM will run exactly as it would if it were on its own host hardware, and a user’s emulated experience is almost identical to that on a physical system. This makes VMs ideal environments for testing other OSs, creating backups and accessing virus-infected data as part of disaster recovery strategies.

Comparing VDI with Desktop Virtualisation: What’s the difference?

Desktop virtualization solutions are the next link in the chain of virtualisation technologies and is the simplest form of the computer within a computer concept. Usually, when someone refers to desktop virtualisation, they are talking about a single desktop computer hosting a single guest VM. This is known as local desktop virtualisation. It can include multiple guest VMs on a single host though.

Another form of desktop virtualisation is a shared solution that connects multiple desktop PCs and thin clients to a single shared desktop, often hosted on a local server or computer. With a virtual desktop environment, the host desktop can be running any OS, and the guest VM can run the same OS, an earlier version of it or a completely different one.

This type of desktop virtualization is an easier and more efficient way of running another operating system on a single desktop than dual booting is because it doesn’t require rebooting every time a user wants to switch between different OSs. With desktop virtualisation, a user can run the host and guest operating systems simultaneously and enjoy the benefits of both at the same time.

So there is no switching from one to the other needed. It is entirely possible to run a macOS, Linux or other OS application and a Windows application side by side. And it takes just seconds to spin up a brand-new VM each time you need it, all from a centralized management.

How does Virtual Desktop Infrastructure work?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is another desktop virtualisation technique and is essentially where desktop virtualisation meets cloud computing. A virtual desktop infrastructure environment hosts desktop environments within virtual machines on a centralised server or data centre. End users can then remotely access these virtual machines from virtually any device with an internet connection, as and when they need to.

These remote desktop environments are exactly like a traditional desktop, including OS, infrastructure and interface, and end users can manage it as though the VM is running locally on their device.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure leverages different components to deliver virtual desktops to an end user, which can include the following:


This is software that segments the remote servers in a data center into the VMs where end users can access virtual desktops and applications. Hypervisors shouldn’t be confused with emulator apps like Nox or Virtual Box, which are essentially virtual operating systems in a box.

Connection broker 

This software is essentially the portal that someone uses to connect to available virtual desktops and are most useful when operating different desktop pools across multiple hosts. When logging in, a user is redirected to the appropriate pool of virtual desktops.

Load balancer 

This software is used to keep workloads distributed evenly between multiple hosts or servers. Sometimes the connection broker acts as a load balancer — this is important because it prevents one host or server from being overwhelmed while others sit idle.

Client application 

Every end user or endpoint device connects to the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure using client software. This software can use any number of remote connection protocols, including Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Independent Computing Architecture (ICA), PC over Internet Protocol (PCoIP) and others.

Why use Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is currently still a complex technology, but assuming that an organisation has all the supporting infrastructure required, users can use their endpoint device of choice to access a VDI solution and manage the data, applications and OS on it as though they were working on a physical device.

Being able to securely access everything they need from almost any device they choose means remote workers don’t need specific hardware to complete their tasks. By leveraging secure remote access and single sign-on (SSO) technology, it is possible to run and manage virtual desktops alongside the constantly expanding spectrum of mobile, web and virtual apps that are an integral part of modern workflows.

What this means is that VDIs don’t compromise on cybersecurity while simultaneously providing a superior working environment. 

How do you benefit from Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

The main reason that Virtual Desktop Infrastructure has gained traction in recent years is that it saves money, enhances security, simplifies administration and is highly scalable.

Cost savings

The hardware requirements for end devices are much lower because all the processing is done on a remote server. When users can access their virtual desktops from older devices, thin clients and even mobile devices, there is no need to purchase new and expensive hardware. Because one user can access multiple virtual machines running any OS, there is no need for dozens of physical systems that will depreciate and eventually need to be replaced either.

Improved security

The data in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure environment lives on the server rather than an end user’s device. So if an endpoint is ever stolen or compromised, it can be immediately decommissioned so that an organisation’s corporate data can’t be exfiltrated and used by malicious actors.

Simplified IT administration

With Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, all of an organisation’s IT assets are located in a centralised datacentre. IT administrators can deploy new software, apply software patches, roll out updates and enforce policies for every virtual desktop in a deployment or pool. This is a far less complicated setup than trying to manage an organisation’s entire physical IT infrastructure and allows for fine-tuned control from a central location.

Remote access

This benefit is especially useful in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where companies had to shift to a remote work policy. Because Virtual Desktop Infrastructure users are connecting to their virtual desktops using any device with an internet connection, they can access all their files and applications from anywhere in the world and at any time.

Enhanced scalability

An organisation can utilise a hybrid IT infrastructure or deploy a VDI alongside a traditional IT infrastructure. So an organisation is free to implement a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure solution on a small scale, testing various options to find the platform and pricing that meets their requirements. Rolling Virtual Desktop Infrastructure out slowly like this allows an organisation’s current physical IT assets to reach the end of their life before implementing VDI to replace them.

Discover how you can benefit with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

With AUCloud’s Desktop as a Service (DaaS) based on the VMware Horizon 7 platform, an organisation can easily implement remote working policies, confident in the fact that their applications, workloads and data are hosted in a highly secure sovereign cloud environment.

Designed to meet ASD’s ISM controls for securing data classified as OFFICIAL, OFFICIAL: SENSITIVE and PROTECTED, AUCloud is trusted by the Australian Government and Critical National Industry organisations to provide the high availability, secure functionality and scalability they need.

Contact AUCloud to find out how a DaaS that provides a consistent user experience across devices and locations for anywhere from one hundred to several thousand users — at highly competitive pricing — can benefit organisations of all shapes and sizes.

AUCloud: Keeping the data of Australians in Australia

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