While interest in virtualised desktop infrastructure (VDI) is gathering momentum at an astonishing rate, the lack of RoI for it is becoming an all-too-common sticking point with customers.
However, VDI RoI is not as hard to quantify as you might think. The savings resulting from VDI may be less obvious than with server consolidation, but they can nonetheless be substantial.
VDI is not about reduced capex or opex but increased potential user productivity. It is certainly useful to compute productivity benefits, but also to evaluate the positive impact of virtual desktops on organisational objectives such as green IT, employee empowerment and business process efficiency.
However, VDI will initially cost more when it comes to capex savings, and soft costs are hard to quantify in opex savings. Agility and security are important, and bring-your-own-PC may be cool, but none of these will help in this scenario – and central management would be a bonus. And while business continuity is certainly valuable, it also won't help you demonstrate RoI.
At the end of every meeting, the CFO will expect to see hard metrics around VDI savings.
This actually reminds me of when I started in IT 25 years ago. On my first-ever customer visit, a senior consultant spent three hours in the car talking about the benefits of deploying IBM’s new twin floppy PCs running something called DOS and Word Perfect connected to an IBM thermal printer (which sounded to me at the time like something from Star Trek).
Wow! This was a revelation! I sat there for almost the entire journey thinking about how we could prove the benefits against the costs to the customer based on a refresh of the current technology stream.
You can imagine the scene. Rows of typists sitting in front of their friendly and reliable Olivetti or IBM typewriters churning out reams of black-and-white documents, folding them into envelopes, and moving information around quite well. Just doing their jobs.
These client devices, as we call them today, cost around £300 each, and needed little management to keep them productive and viable. Then along came some new technology, costing £3000 a go, needing multiple products to run including hardware, software and, most importantly, user training.
All requiring new management, internal support changes, plus a three-year refresh – adding up to a considerable investment in time and money.
For the next three years I travelled around the UK migrating, doing maintenance, and training customers on this amazing technology: the PC. Now, I find myself once again evangelising the benefits of an amazing technology, and customers are saying exactly the same things.
They are asking about the capex investment, what they pay will today, and how they can justify this to their management team?
In these horrible economic times, am I talking about 1985 or 2010?
Clearly, RoI means many things. It can vary by environment or market space. The 'one size fits all' slogan has never been less true. How then to demonstrate RoI?
A possible answer might be that if an individual IT support technician costs £50,000, a 10 per cent productivity increase by deploying VDI will deliver £5,000 return per year per technician.
Similarly, a user who costs the company £35,000 per year will increase his or her productivity by 10 per cent through a reduction in downtime associated with patching, migration and performance issues.
And if that user improves his or her productivity by 10 per cent, what would that be worth to a business with 150 users? What would that be worth if your customer has 5000 users?
In 1985, the increase in productivity achieved by moving from typewriters to the PC was seen as a revelation. 25 years on, I believe that VDI will improve productivity in the same way, or even better.
Kevin Green is solutions manager at Trustmarque Solutions
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