You've got your mandate from on high to switch to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) - who doesn't love decreased costs, lower power consumption, and reduced computer management overhead - and you're raring to go. You've figured out your vendors and you've got your images built, but have you considered your network requirements?


If you haven't given it much thought, you really ought to. Nothing says disaster on a VDI deployment quite like latency and contention issues.


Five tips to get your network ready for VDI

  1. Don't guestimate bandwidth usage.
    While there's always a certain amount of guessing that happens when deploying new technology and determining bandwidth consumption, you should have hard data to begin the process.
    Calculate your current bandwidth needs first. If possible, you'll want to analyze your bandwidth usage for at least a full year. Most organizations have bandwidth spikes, especially during crunch times like the end or beginning of the quarter. If you only take into account your average bandwidth consumption, you'll miss the spikes and your users will undoubtedly complain about this weird new thing that IT is trying.  If you have the data, you should also look at pervious years to calculate your annual growth rate to add in to your plans.
  2. Talk to your network people.
    Always consult with your network team before doing anything. They'll be able to tell you if the network can handle the pressure from your VDI deployment or if you need to include some infrastructure changes in your deployment plan.
    If you have to make infrastructure changes, always design with expansion in mind. When your organization grows, you will need the extra capacity, especially with VDI.
  3. Implement a pilot program.
    A pilot program can be more important for VDI than you think. VDI can be uncomfortable for users, especially in an organization-wide rollout. You want to catch issues early and with few people impacted by them. You should probably choose a representative sample of people and, possibly, an entire department.
    Pilot programs can also increase user acceptance if people think they're helping and IT is responsive to the issues they experience. The pilot users can be great VDI advocates when it comes time to roll it out.
    The pilot will also help set your network expectations. Are the bandwidth usage numbers within the vendor accepted range? Is it higher? Is it lower?
  4. Over-estimate your consumption.
    If possible, add some wiggle room to your estimated network usage - you'll end up using it sooner or later. As mentioned before, your network usage spikes during the year, but it also spikes during the day. With VDI, you'll have a spike in activity when everyone logs in or boots up in the morning or when they get back from lunch. You want to have enough headroom for these spikes and small expansions in your organization.
  5. Don't have a single point of failure.
    Do you have a single router that will connect your virtual desktops to the rest of the organization? Are there single points of failure connecting remote sites to your VDI servers?
    You need to build in some redundancy into your network. If users can't connect to their virtual desktop, they're dead in the water (and you're in some hot water yourself). Nowadays, network outages can significantly impact a business' bottom line. If users can't get to their desktops to work (or stave off boredom in case of an Internet outage), your organization stands to lose a lot of business and employee satisfaction.

If you use SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, you should be able to easily analyze your network usage over the years. You can also look at the bill from your ISP for a summary of your usage.