Fielding questions while on the VDI panel at last month's Vail Pacific Crest Forum, it became apparent that investment analysts consider a lack of VDI ROI to be common knowledge. But while the savings resulting from desktop virtualization may be less obvious than with server consolidation, they nonetheless are often substantial.
Gartner's March 2009 press release predicts exploding VDI sales of $65B by 2013 – equating to 40% of the professional PC market, and up from only $1.4B and less than 1% today. This represents "…part of bigger shift in client computing from traditional thick-client distributed PCs toward more manageable, secure and centralized client computing environments." A VMware-sponsored IDC analysis of View customers indicates that a centralized VDI approach produces measurable efficiencies.
The IDC white paper shows that compared with using unmanaged PCs, organizations deploying VMware View saved an average of $287 per user annually from lower device costs and $601 from lower IT support costs. Another $130 was saved from improved user productivity resulting from faster start-up time, less security issues, etc. The overall 5 year ROI was 367% with a 5.61 month payback.
While the white paper lacks supporting data, the numbers nonetheless look reasonable. For comparison, I recently calculated annual savings of $455 for an organization virtualizing 1,000 PCs and laptops as part of a phase one View 3 deployment. The payback period of 11.7 months against an investment of $500,000 is in the general vicinity of the IDC averages. Applying the IDC white paper estimate of $130 in user productivity savings further reduces the payback period to 9.3 months.
The only support savings calculated are those specifically related to hardware issues. The organization's extraordinarily well-managed physical desktop environment includes extensive tracking and categorization of support request – conferring unusual confidence in the numbers.
The analysis assumes that as PCs and laptops reach their refresh periods of 48 months and 36 months respectively, they are replaced with Pano Logic zero clients. The already mostly virtualized data center reduces the incremental storage, server and services costs from those required for a green field VDI deployment.
Annual HW/SW savings of $131 per user result primarily from no longer needing to refresh the $800 PCs and $1,200 laptops (including tax, shipping, set-up, etc.). The $324 in annual hardware-related support costs per PC/laptop does not include typical costs of less well-managed environments such as OS and application patching/upgrades, desktop imaging, etc.
This organization lacks small remote offices that could significantly contribute to VDI savings by eliminating local network infrastructures. And the ROI doesn't quantify tangential VDI enhancements such as much faster boot times, greater stability, reduced security risk and ubiquitous desktop access from anywhere users can get to a browser. It also disregards significant disaster recovery advantages.
Tyler Rohrer makes a case on www.vdi.com that VDI is not about reduced Capex or Opex, but about increased potential user productivity. It certainly is useful to compute not only productivity benefits, but also to evaluate the positive impact of virtual desktops on organizational objectives such as "green IT", employee empowerment and business process efficiency. But at the end of the day, CFOs expect to see hard metrics for VDI savings. Fortunately, it frequently is possible to show a compelling ROI.
Note: This article is also posted on http://www.dabcc.com/article.aspx?id=12094