Are End User Compute and Virtual Desktop the Same Thing?

One of the challenges in staying current with business technologies in the market today is the fact that many of the technologies overlap. Naming conventions complicate it even further. I’ve recently come across this again as I have studied End User Compute (EUC) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). VDI is a subset of technologies of the broader category of EUC.

Both are important components of the cloud and data center world, so I feel compelled to provide a better description and comparison here.

End User Compute

EUC can be defined or thought of as the “last mile” of the data center; a term borrowed from the telecommunications industry. For this reason, it piques the interest of so many data center mavens. EUC helps organizations use servers or software in the datacenter to automate or improve the end users’ desktop experience.

There have always been two primary providers in EUC: VMWare, and Citrix. Not by coincidence, these have also been leaders in software for a business datacenter. VMware’s product, Horizon View, provides virtual desktop capabilities to users utilizing VMware’s virtualization technology. Citrix’s XenDesktop is thought by many to be a more feature rich product with better mobile integration and administration.

Recently the large public cloud providers have started to embrace this technology. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has developed a development platform for their partners to help them specialize in certain technologies. One of the first technologies approached was EUC.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure  

VDI is defined as the software-based technology to host a desktop Operating System (OS) on a centralized server in the data center. It is thought of as server-based computing, where the end users don’t have a unique and independent desktop. An image of the desktops is stored on the server and delivered to the desktop devise on bootup.  

VDI creates an environment where the end user has very little control of their desktop. For the IT manager, this means fewer headaches with less help desk service tickets. This can result in less cost for the business. Additional cost savings for the business can be the desktop devises themselves. Re-purposed PC’s or “dumb” terminals can be utilized at the desktop because the storage, processing, and RAM requirements for the desktop workstation are less with VDI.

For as long as I can remember VDI was the technology that was on the brink of mass adoption. I believe one of the reasons we in the IT industry had this perception was because IT managers recommended it. VDI can make their jobs easier and help eliminate the burden of Shadow IT.

One issue holding back VDI is its cost in two primary areas, bandwidth, and storage. In many cases, some or all the VDI servers will be stored off site. Moving this data back and forth can prove to be a challenge. The only way to be sure you have the right amount of bandwidth is by performing a valid proof of concept.

Storage can also be an issue in regard to the type of storage more so than the quantity. Faster storage with a greater input/output (IOPS) like solid state storage is required to avoid problems like a “boot storm.” A boot storm is the degradation of service that occurs when a significant number of end users boot up within a very narrow time frame and overwhelm the network with data requests. 

Are VDI and EUC really the same thing with the difference being merely semantics? Possibly; they are very similar technologies that overlap considerably. Another concept the two have in common is they are perfect examples of my golden rule of technology implementation. When considering new solutions an organization needs to start with this question; is there a problem to be solved and what is the return on investment? Buying technology for technologies sake, or to satisfy a limited number of users does not produce results to support the overall business.

If you would like to talk more about strategies for cloud solutions contact us at:

Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131

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