A new technology that provides an easily accessible, easily customizable "virtual desktop" is poised to change the way office workers use computers. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) stores a user's personally tailored desktop on a central system, streaming the image to the client's local machine. This means users may access their desktop anytime, from various locations – on campus, from home, or while traveling, with minimal local resources.

There are many advantages to introducing the VDI technology on the ISU campus:

  • The technology and life cycle of desktop systems will change dramatically, saving investment dollars. Thin client technology can be widely deployed as a replacement for personal computers, increasing energy efficiency, limiting security risks, decreasing administration and support, and generally costing less to purchase. Existing personal computers will be functional for a longer time period since the virtual desktop can be centrally upgraded and enhanced.
  • All desktop data will be stored in the data center, allowing for the use of efficient central storage methods (compression and deduplication), regular and monitored backup procedures for all data, and secure access to data.
  • Support will be simplified and users will have less downtime. ITS will be able to access users' desktops centrally, eliminating the need to physically visit the office or wait for a user to be available on campus. If a user's desktop becomes corrupt or infected, it can be taken offline, a new virtual machine can be provisioned, and the user can be back up and running immediately. Although the user might not have access to some data, the total downtime is much shorter. As new fixes or security patches need to be installed, ITS can easily identify target desktops and schedule software upgrades with little inconvenience.
  • Support for lab environments will be simplified a great deal. Lab machines can be configured to use a "non-persistent" desktop image, meaning user changes to that desktop will not be retained. If a user causes corruption to occur on the desktop (through a virus or malware), it will be eliminated as soon as the session terminates. A new desktop image will be used for the next client. Hardware changes will be less frequent, and software installations and upgrades can be tested centrally, and then used as the persistent desktop when desired. Reverting to the old desktop image, if needed, will be a simple process.

ITS is currently testing VMware View on campus in select administrative offices and lab environments, with the goal of providing a large-scale offering by summer 2010.