Is the ROI of VDI Really the “One Reason” People Use VDI?


A while back, Brian Madden wrote an interesting article titled “Why do people use VDI? One reason!” In that article, Brian observed that organizations often implement VDI for one simple overarching reason whether it is for improved security, mobility, or a host of other reasons.

He illustrates his point by introducing what he calls DWI – or Doctors with iPads: A doctor walking into an administrator’s office and setting down his iPad and saying “make my apps work on this,” is a simple enough reason for an organization to move to VDI.

I agree with Brian’s observation. However, when I ask customers what their primary reason for implementing VDI, I almost always hear ROI – that saving money is the primary reason.

This is not surprising, given that we have been living in a flat economy and that IT budgets are at best, also flat. While we have worked with customers to help them develop ROI models for their business case for VDI, it’s never a simple thing. It is not all ways clear on where those cost savings will come from or how to achieve them. The problem presents itself in several ways.

Defining the ROI Problem for VDI

Unlike server virtualization, desktop hardware refresh budgets alone won’t provide the costs savings required to provide the ROI of VDI. Savings are achieved through activities like improved application and OS management. To achieve these savings requires changes in IT processes and a re-allocation of resources (people) and these are not popular activities within most organizations.

Another problem is that the ROI of VDI has a long tail. Unlike server virtualization, where cost savings are immediate and ROIs can be realized in a year or less, VDI may require three years or more to achieve an ROI. VDI requires a large upfront investment to replace less expensive desktops, laptops, and end-devices with more expensive server and enterprise storage systems.

To cover that cost gap requires the time to accumulate on-going management savings and cyclical savings associated with activities like application and OS upgrades. The capital investment part of the equation can be allayed through a Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) approach but ROI’s are not immediate and time is still required.

ROI and the VDI Business Case

Because of the complexities associated with developing an ROI for VDI – in terms of both the financial aspect and the people change/cultural aspect – business cases that position cost savings as the most important, and perhaps the only, reason often fail because it’s not simple, and management can’t see an easy path to ROI.

While cost savings and ROI are reasonable and important objectives, it is my experience that these objectives alone will not propel a VDI program forward. There needs to be a clear and simple objective that’s easily understood by all and positively benefits the organization and its stakeholders.

So, what is your DWI reason?