We seem to have forgotten that VDI is security. What I mean by that is with all the buzz around security we sometimes forget that we already have solutions in the workplace that enhance the security posture while enabling our workforce to be productive at the same time. I recently read this article where the Navy solved their VPN security issue by expanding their VDI footprint and it got me thinking … we don't state the obvious often enough. VDI is a solution that gives users access to their apps and data via a great deal of security.

Today, public and private entities are spending a lot of time and money adding security tools in an attempt to stop data breaches and cybersecurity threats. With the advent and usage of AI, corporate data has become even more sensitive. Amidst this landscape, what's old is still new and VDI is still a beacon of security, offering a robust solution for companies seeking to fortify their systems against potential threats.

Now, if you are not familiar with what VDI is, it's a virtualization technology that allows companies to host and manage desktop operating systems in the local datacenter via a cloud provider's infrastructure. Users access their desktop environments remotely via thin clients, web browsers, full PCs, or mobile devices. This centralized approach to desktop management offers several benefits, including improved security, simplified administration, and enhanced flexibility for employees to access their desktops from anywhere, at any time.

Components that make up VDI:

  1. Hypervisor: VDI utilizes a virtual infrastructure using hypervisors. The hypervisor creates desktop virtual machines (VMs). The Hypervisor manages physical resources like CPU, memory, and storage to each VM. This ensures the efficient utilization of server resources to provide the best performance of the VDI desktops possible.
  2. Virtual Desktops: Each individual desktop operating system is installed on and managed by hypervisors. Users are assigned a dedicated or shared VM, depending on entitlements and corporate requirements. These virtual desktops are full desktop operating systems that function the same as operating systems installed locally on physical computers. These desktops are located in the data center and managed by internal IT. Therefore, they can be fully locked down and patched according to corporate best practices.
  3. Connection Broker: The connection broker acts as a central starting point for the users to point to and then brokers the user's request for a desktop with the available virtual desktops running on the hypervisors. Working with a directory service it authenticates user credentials, assigns users to an available virtual desktop, and monitors and manages user sessions.
  4. Storage Infrastructure: For on-premises, VDI storage plays a crucial role as it stores virtual machine images, user data, and application files. Storage infrastructure in VDI environments often utilizes technologies such as network-attached storage (NAS), storage area networks (SAN), or hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) to provide scalable and high-performance storage solutions. In cloud deployments, the amount of storage and the storage chosen is also crucial as this goes a long way towards the performance of the cloud VDI desktops as well as the cost to the corporation.
  5. Network Infrastructure: A robust network infrastructure is essential for delivering a responsive and reliable user experience in VDI environments. Network components such as switches, routers, firewalls, and virtual private networks (VPNs) facilitate secure communication between clients and virtual desktops, ensuring data integrity and confidentiality.
  6. User Devices: While users access their virtual desktops remotely, they still require endpoint devices to connect to the VDI environment. Devices could be thin clients, full desktop computers, tablets, or smartphones. Whatever device is used, users can access their virtual desktops through either the installed client or via HTML5 web-based interfaces. To be clear, at no time is any data at rest on the user's device.
  7. Protocols: Utilizing remote display protocols that are encrypted end to end, users connect to their virtual desktops from their devices in a secure manner. The user only sees the result of the actions taken via screen refresh and sends to the virtual desktop only the mouse and keyboard commands. The real action takes place on the desktop that is secure in the data center.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) offers organizations a great way to perform desktop management by combining flexibility and security. By centralizing desktop environments on servers, businesses can streamline administration and mitigate security risks associated with traditional desktop computing. 

VDI serves as a linchpin in bolstering the overall security posture of companies. VDI enables IT teams to implement uniform security policies and patches across all virtual desktop instances. This centralized approach not only streamlines security management but also ensures consistency and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Moreover, VDI works seamlessly with access control and authentication technologies. Through technologies like multi-factor authentication (MFA) and secure single sign-on (SSO), VDI enhances identity verification processes, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and identity theft. Additionally, granular access controls allow administrators to tailor permissions based on user roles and responsibilities, limiting exposure to sensitive data and minimizing the potential impact of security breaches.

Furthermore, VDI's inherent scalability and flexibility empower businesses to adapt to evolving security threats and regulatory landscapes seamlessly. Whether scaling up to accommodate a growing workforce or implementing security updates in real-time, VDI offers unparalleled agility, enabling companies to stay ahead of emerging cyber threats and maintain regulatory compliance.

VDI is nothing new, it has been around in one form or another for about 30ish years. As long as there are Windows native and Linux native applications that end users consume, VDI will be a relevant technology. VDI has always had security at its core and VDI continues to evolve to handle today's threats.