The mystery of the missing use case for stateful VDI

The mystery of the missing use case for stateful VDI

Since I started doing VDI projects a couple of years ago on each project I run into cases where certain user groups demand a personal stateful VDI desktop. I have heard lots of reasons, the problem is that I haven’t heard a single good one yet!

The first thing I run into is that customers want to squeeze all of their users onto VDI while most of the times 80% of the users will have the same experience on a RDS desktop. Would we ever think of letting a user install his own applications on a RDS desktop?? I don’t think so!

So what about the 20% of the users that actually need a VDI desktop? Do they also need to install their own applications? I would say no but let’s look at some of the use cases users think of.

I need to install my applications because I need them to be able to do my work.

I had a great discussion about this with Andrew Morgan on Twitter and the conclusion is: If a user needs an application to do his work, don’t we call that a business application? If so, we do want to make sure we present this application in a controlled and managed way and might even make the application available to colleagues doing the same work so they can benefit of the same cool and helpful functionality.

Aside from making the application available there are concerns about licensing, stability and interoperability of applications, this might just be me thinking old style in the “cloud era” but if all of those applications where cloud based we wouldn’t be having the “install” discussion.

The second group “and I do love this one” are developers

Developers are the nr. 1 group of people who demand the need for a state-full desktop.  Even better it’s the first group management wants to please, not counting hospital surgeons. The fun thing is that if we let the developers write and test their code on our VDI platforms they are actually doing this in a production environment. While IT is doing all of their testing in a safe and closed test environment we let developers do whatever they want in our production environment?

Think about it, test an application that is running massively on CPU or IOPS. That would result in a major impact on user experience for other users.

Why don’t we just give them a workplace with Office and all of their applications and next to that offer them test VM’s in a closed and testing environment?

Consumerization of IT

Consumerization of IT is one I can write a complete separate blog or even a book about. Although I love the whole device independent way of working myself I don’t see the need to combine bring your own device with bring your own (cr)applications. It’s the other way around in my opinion, you can bring / choose / create your own devices and as an IT facilitator we’ll make sure you can run your business applications, Windows / SAAS / Cloud on those devices.

A big thanks to Kees Baggerman and Andy Morgan for helping me write this article!

Please feel free to comment your personal views on my blog. I would really like to write a follow up article based on the discussions!

Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

About Barry Schiffer

Barry is an IT Architect with 15 years of IT experience. He has gained both a broad and deep knowledge in the sphere of IT. Throughout the years, Barry has developed into a specialist in the field of Microsoft Windows, Server Based Computing, desktop and server virtualisation.Barry is co-founder and member of the Board of the Dutch Citrix User Group.Barry is awarded with the Citrix Technology Professional award in 2015 and received the RES Software Valued Professional award in 2012.

15 Responses to The mystery of the missing use case for stateful VDI

  1. Good article Barry, and I have to agree with you. In two weeks I’m going to have this exact discussion with a customer.
    He’s convinced that he needs to deploy XenDesktop to all of his users, although 95% would be doing fine with a XA desktop or even PAs only to their local OS.
    I’m a huge fan of XenDesktop and I’m always happy when working with it, but most people misunderstand the use case.

  2. Andrew Morgan says:

    Great article Barry,

    The one use case for VDI (not SBC) I struggle with is “performance users”. These users are usually pedantic excel abusers whom the IT department give up on and just give them as many cores as they can cram into a desktop to keep then quiet.

    These users would fit into your isolation environment model, so you’ve that one covered too!


  3. Geert Braakhekke says:

    Of course every user wants their own desktop and the ability to install apps. But even dedicated programmers/CAD/Designers etc. don’t need to install new software every day.

    Maybe SMB users might want to install everything they want, and bring the same problems to their network they do now.
    But what is wrong with a normal PC for those users….

    It should be an executive decision, with a balance between cost/security/user experience/etc.

  4. Jon Jager says:

    Good article Barry.

    Is the follow up going to be: Is there still a use case for state-full VDI’s with the arrival of PvD’s?

    Developers are a group of people I’m dealing with right now. It’s hard to find the right solution because I don’t think building (+ Buying, implementing and maintaining) an environment on completely separated hardware is an option. Simply because I think it’s too expensive. It’s much cheaper to buy half the hardware and expand the current environment. Build a developer VDI, attach a PvD and create a development vLan. This VDI is pure for development. The office environment is delivered to the developers in a XenApp environment.
    This is what we are building at the moment and in my opinion “best of the rest”

  5. Jon Jager says:

    @Barry -> The next Mr Fatclient? ;-). How’s IT going to support that in a hosted environemnt?

  6. Bram Wolfs says:

    This article is spot on Barry!

    I am also having a lot of discussions with customers about the use case of XenApp and XenDesktop.
    I think this is also due to the marketing strategy of Citrix, some customers are convinced that they need XenDesktop now and not XenApp anymore….
    But if we explain what kind of impact this has on the infrastructure, costs etc and that most applications run fine on XenApp they choose for a hybrid environment to get the best of both worlds.

    Ok back to the topic, i would like to add one more group to the discussion :

    IT staff

    Most of the time IT staff (system administrators e.d.) want there own desktop with there own set of tools and consoles. They do not want to get restricted by all the policies and other restrictions on the XenApp environment.
    Normally they had there own personal play field on there own PC on the desk, but now they also want to work from anywhere…

    Kind Regards,

  7. Jon Jager says:


    Why not build a Management server with all the tools and less policies? That way administrators can be provided with an XenApp session from where a RDP session can be setup to the management server.

    I think it’s important system administrators need to work on the XenApp environment so they can experience what their customers experience every day.

    • @JON I totally agree that IT guys really need to be doing their “normal” office work on the RDS/VDI platform users also work on. This will help you so much in understanding what users experience. Most likely you run into issues users don’t bother to complain about but what eventually end up in the “I don’t know why but i hate it” statements.

      @Bram IT guys are actually a group i missed in this article:S shame on me. I will think about how i’m going to use this. Don’t you think the IT guys have their own little playground where they do what they are good at?

      Question to all: Do we need to think of the IT guys desktop when we are designing a new platform?

  8. Bram Wolfs says:

    @Jon I never thinked about it that way, understanding the user experience by letting them work in the same environment, that’s a good point!

    Yes i think we have to consider that IT guys have some special requirements and needs, they are still very used to freedom and having God Mode in the environment, but this is afcourse also where the danger lies.

    I think this God Mode is something from the past, role based access is the key to a controlled environment.
    At the end it will be a management decision, what kind of freedom the IT guys will get in the environment, a state-full desktop is part of this decision.
    Maybe it’s a good time to evaluate this with the customer when designing a new platform….

  9. If there is already no use case for statefull VDI, why would you use VDI at all? Stateless VDI configuration is almost like SBC, so this can be hosted on XenApp withoug a problem (or the main applications are not SBC compatible).

    I only consider VDI implementations for specific cases and then statefull VDI comes into place. PvD will make this more easier to manage, but actually it is still a kind of statefull VDI (one VDI per person). I totally agree agree that there are easier and cheaper solution like using a Fat Client to achieve the same result 🙂

    Concerning the IT guys, there can build there own virtual machine an do “their thing”. I don’t think that should be included in a Xen implementation.

  10. Peter Sterk says:

    Consumerization of IT is all about facilitating your users to do what they want, how they want it. It’s “Old School” thinking to provide your users with just the business apps. Who determines what applications are business apps, which aren’t? This process is very time consuming and costly, and effectively limits the users in their overall experience.

    Users really don’t care how you fix it, but fix it. If you can’t, please allow them to install their own applications or they walk away from your system. I’ve seen enterprises where departments manage their own IT, because the centralized IT organization can’t keep up with their requirements. That’s something you really want to prevent!

    More and more organizations look at a centralized desktop environment (SBC or VDI) to support their users. Think about security, BYOx and workshifting. In a ideal world all of your applications are web-architected or Rich Internet Applications (and we lose our job?) so that you only need a web browser. We are (still) far away from that point and until then, we just need a desktop to run our applications on. For the majority of the users a stateless environment is sufficient, some need elevated rights to have more flexibility. This is THE use case for stateful VDI desktops.

    So, I think the question is wrong. There is a use case for stateful VDI desktops, but is there for stateless? Why not use SBC desktops as a cheaper alternative, as already mentioned in the comments? Well here you go:

    – x64 bit (support for your applications, VDI allows you to use x86);

    – Desktop OS vs. Server OS (think (vendor) support, compatibility);

    – Support for peripherals.

    – Standardization (VDI and fat client with Windows 7, only one OS to support)

    This last point can be a interesting one… You need to test every change you make to your ‘desktop’ or running application on it, TWICE! Not only implementing a new desktop environment but with every change, for the next couple of years. So, is VDI really that expensive IN THE LONG RUN?

    So, what concept is best? “It depends”. If over 95% of your users can be served with a stateless SBC desktop, and your apps are no issue, go with the SBC desktop option. If not, choose wisely and invest time to collect the user requirements and then determine what concept is best.

    Oh, and all the comments about the IT Folks? Sorry, but I really think you make a big big mistake. IT folks are no different then your ordinary users. You will lose credibility if you think that you stand above your users. IT is no ivory tower, IT is a facilitator! Try to induce your users to use your system, instead of just limiting (and irritating) them. And that starts with eating you dogfood!

  11. Alistair Gillespie says:

    Re: “most of the times 80% of the users will have the same experience on a RDS desktop”
    > In “theory” RDS/XA often appears to be the most scalable way of meeting requirements but in reality that’s often not how it works out! (If it was really the answer for 80% of users why didn’t it take off / deliver years ago?)

    Re: “the 20% of the users that actually need a VDI desktop”
    > It would be great if you could qualify this with what you believe are the “legitimate” reasons for needing a VDI desktop (vs RDS/XA)

    Re: “ If a user needs an application to do his work….we do want to make sure we present this application in a controlled and managed way”
    > what if that app can’t be delivered “streamed”?
    Are you suggesting the user should wait for an app install each time they logon to a “new” (i.e. stateless) desktop?

    Re: “ if all of those applications were cloud based we wouldn’t be having the “install” discussion”
    > yes – but we probably wouldn’t be having an SBC vs VDI discussion in that case either !
    Bottom line – these technologies are typically being used to solve “legacy” application delivery issues

    Re: “Developers”… “Why don’t we just give them a workplace with Office and all of their applications and next to that offer them test VM’s in a closed and testing environment?”
    > That is often done. However it does mean a whole bunch of additional infrastructure and additional management overhead (AD, management / sw delivery, patching etc etc). Add to that – very often developers find those environments too “restrictive” / unworkable (e.g. due to other access needed)

    Here are my views on the main factors driving use of VDI vs SBC
    – Need for elevated rights
    – Application won’t or can’t (e.g. licensing) be run on RDS / XA
    – Resource profile (high CPU/Disk/Ram requirement)
    – GPU intensive app (or check for GPU)
    There are others (such as flexibility around addition of print drivers, secure print options etc)

Leave a Reply