VDI Market in South Africa

What challenges do South African enterprises face when it comes to VDI deployments?

The advantages of VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructures) are clear; it promises much for enterprises looking to deliver secure, cost effective remote access to desktops and applications, it can lower the cost of connecting clients to desktop and mobile devices, make desktop maintenance easier, and improve the overall IT performance. A good VDI environment provides agility for desktop services and applications, better security and compliance, standardisation and better management.

More and more enterprises are deploying VDI as they see the obvious advantages, and South African companies are no different. They are beginning to pick up on the trend, which has seen the dramatic expansion of deployments in the region. However, the VDI market in South Africa is not as mature as it could be, primarily because enterprises looked at deploying the technology two to three years ago, at a time when the cost stifled the projects.

In many instances, existing storage systems could not isolate or monitor VM performance, making it difficult to identify and correct performance problems. And while over-provisioning storage is often a necessary evil, it can drive up costs significantly, increasing management, space, power and cooling expenses. As a consequence, many enterprises in South Africa were forced to either scale back or abandon their VDI deployments altogether.

There are several other challenges that South African enterprises face when it comes to VDI deployments. Enterprises are confused and bewildered by the large number of product offerings and some have made the wrong decisions with regards to their hardware selection. We see four main pillars that need to be addressed by South African enterprises looking to deploy VDI that need to be answered:

  1. Cost – if the initial cost and total cost of ownership do not represent a saving then the project will not be successful.
  2. Performance – most enterprises begin with a test bed for VDI and if the user experience is not equal to or better than the current environment, users will often reject the project.
  3. Scalability – there needs to be a pre-determined scaling strategy for long term, once the project scales.
  4. Reliability – the VDI deployment needs to be as reliable as the current environment.

These four pillars can stymie South African VDI deployments, however it’s often the storage underpinning the environment that can be held responsible. Storage is at the centre of VDI deployments but it is frequently a performance bottleneck for concentrated workloads on hundreds of virtual desktops. Small random-write workloads, boot storms and antivirus scans can cripple legacy storage systems in environments with hundreds of virtual machines (VMs).

The solution lies in deploying application-aware products that help organisations in South Africa to conquer the barriers to successful VDI deployments. Appliances are available that can provide the capacity and performance to support large numbers of VMs (as many as 1,000), dramatically reducing operational and capital costs, while reducing the need for rack space, power and cooling.

Storage scalability is another issue that inhibits VDI deployments throughout South Africa. Many VDI deployments are constrained because traditional storage architectures do not scale easily. Deployment architectures designed for a 500 seat VDI pilot using legacy modular storage systems won’t work for a 5,000 seat production environment. Maintenance and management of traditional storage arrays is often complex and makes scaling VDI cumbersome.

Vendors are working to drive awareness of VDI technology in South Africa, creating greater awareness around the cost effectiveness of modern VDI and spotlighting evolving and new technologies, which have made this possible. This has opened up talks with enterprises that are reconsidering VDI, who previously found it cost prohibitive. Recently the VDI discussion has been re-kindled amongst enterprises in the area and it is now speaking from a position of strength.


Claudio Polla is Regional Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at Tintri