Transformative Technology: Desktop Virtualization in Government

Nearly every federal CIO is looking at some form of virtual desktop infrastructure or VDI. It’s becoming as ubiquitous as cloud computing, mobility and big data in discussions.

VDI in many respects is one step to move toward the cloud and in other respects it’s its own approach that may or may not include cloud computing. Many agencies see VDI has better and more secure approach to mobile computing and telework.

Others see it as a way to move away from the thick client set up that has permeated most organizations over the last 20 years and back toward a thin or zero client set up for desktop computing. Several studies over the last year showed agencies see VDI as the gateway to mobility and as a way to improve cost effectiveness and efficiency in their network.

At the same time, the challenges to implementing VDI are pretty typical–business applications may not integrate easily with VDI, and, of course, security.

Some say VDI isn’t more secure than traditional desktops because it’s the end point device that causes most of the headaches for the security folks. But there are plenty of benefits from VDI, according to Gunnar Berger’s August 2012 blog post for Gartner.

He says VDI is easier to manage because thousands of desktops can run off a single central image. This also means security is improved because you have to only worry about securing that one image.

Berger also says VDI improves performance because of the time it takes to get data and how you can access data since any device is an access point. So we know there are risks and benefits, and like any technology, agencies need to figure out how best to calculate whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Part of the decision comes in how agencies can figure out their return on investment. Will it take one year, three years or longer?

Most would agree the cost to implement VDI is about equal to implementing thick clients. But it’s the longer-term savings where VDI tends to come out ahead. The question is just how much ahead. You have to understand things such as configuration planning, storage costs and licensing.


Jason Miller is an executive editor and reporter with Federal News Radio. As executive editor, Jason helps direct the news coverage of the station and works with reporters to ensure a broad range of coverage of federal technology, procurement, finance and human resource news.As a reporter, Jason focuses mainly on technology and procurement issues, including cybersecurity, e-government and acquisition policies and programs.


Tom Sasala serves as the Chief Technology Officer for the U.S. Army Information Technology Agency (ITA). In this role, Mr. Sasala is responsible for the establishment and oversight of the technical direction of the Agency. Mr. Sasala is charged with ensuring that ITA takes a proactive approach to identifying and deploying new technologies, ensuring alignment with and integration of the Agency’s technology with Federal, Department of Defense, Army and Pentagon technology strategies. Most recently, he served as the Senior Technical Director for ManTech International, providing technology strategy and leadership for the defense and intelligence communities.
Keith Maresca is the Senior Sales Manager, Dell Federal Cloud Client Computing (CCC) and SecureView Multi-level Security (MLS). He has spent the past five years with Dell as Manager for EDT, PM, ICS, and CS project managers. Prior to Dell, he was Business Development Manager at RSI-CRI. Mr. Maresca is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and served in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia, Panama. He retired as Colonel in 2006.
Ryan Sobel is the Director of Secure Mobility for Iron Bow Technologies. In this role, Sobel runs the Enterprise Mobile business unit and provides the mobile strategy and the technical expertise to develop best practices for customers in both the government/commercial space. Sobel is responsible for defining the architecture vision and design principles, planning and implementation of complex mobile architectures (across different technology stacks) to meet both functional and non-functional requirements.
Terry McCall was selected for the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service in June 2010. As Deputy Director for the Intelligence Community Desktop Environment (IC DTE) Joint Program Management Office (JPMO), he is responsible for providing a common desktop architecture for the Intelligence Community, as part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) IC Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE) initiative. Prior to this assignment, Mr. McCall served as Chief of the Office for Enterprise Management, where he led IT Service Management efforts to strategically align IT initiatives to the mission and quality assurance efforts to continually improve IT service delivery to Department of Defense Intelligence Information System (DoDIIS) customers.

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