Virtualization News

Value Behind Building a Virtual Health IT Infrastructure

A survey found that desktop virtualization is expected to be phased out of IT infrastructure in favor of VDI.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

As part of a recent survey conducted by Finn Partners, IT decision makers shared insight into the kinds of technologies integral to building a future-proof IT infrastructure as well as those destined for the dustheap.

virtualization in healthcare

Over 500 IT decision-makers in the US counted desktop computers (30 percent), hard disk drives (28 percent), USB drives (19 percent), and desktop virtualization (10 percent) among the dying infrastructure technologies.

The survey highlights the shift to cloud computing supported by faster connections and shrinking need for offline storage as a major reason why these technologies are expected to be phased out within the next several years.  

While hard disk drives and USB drives are understandably outdated due to the rise of cloud technology, the inclusion of desktop virtualization on the list may come as a surprise. Virtualization technology is on the rise and doing away with desktop computers in favor of thin clients and mobile devices supports future virtualization efforts.

Respondents identified rising technologies ranging from 3D printing (23 percent) and virtual reality (20 percent) to more obtainable technology such as cloud services (52 percent) and big data (23 percent).

One of the biggest distinctions the survey uncovers is the difference between desktop virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). IT professionals are beginning to see the advantages of VDI over the slightly older desktop virtualization because of the limitations of desktop virtualization.

The major difference between the two is where the virtual machine (VM) lives, which may seem trivial at first, but makes a significant difference when thinking about the future of an organization’s IT infrastructure. Desktop virtualization functions by running a VM on a desktop computer and allowing the VM to access the desktop stored in the data center. VDI uses a VM that is stored in the data center and supplies hosted desktop images to the end user. Using VDI, users can access their desktop from any device via a VPN making it mobile and much more flexible than desktop virtualization.

For healthcare organizations specifically, the difference in flexibility between desktop virtualization and VDI makes VDI a better option because it fits better with the evolution of technology. IT professionals are predicting the death of desktop computers in the workplace and the rise of mobile devices including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. VDI allows users to access their personal user profile with all of their files from any device they choose, making it a great fit for clinicians moving from patient to patient.  

Organizations looking to invest in a virtual desktop solution need to consider their mobile strategy and if desktops will continue to be the hardware of choice for all users. If an organization sees mobile devices in their future, investing in desktop virtualization over VDI could be an expensive misstep.

As the survey states, these technology progressions can be attributed to the growth of cloud computing. VDI, and other virtualization solutions such as virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI) functions using cloud technology. Big Data solutions also use cloud technology to process and store the volume of data that is too large to store on-premise.

“While the cloud continues to gain ground as a technology that provides more and more value to enterprises, the services that the cloud helps enable, such as applications requiring intensive processing power and access to large amounts of data, are also offering greater value for enterprises,” survey analysts found. “The need is greatest among larger enterprises as nearly one-third (32 percent) of respondents from companies with more than 500 employees state that big data will become extremely valuable to their organization compared with 17 percent of those from smaller companies.”

Looking to the future is vital for healthcare organizations considering investing in any kind of large infrastructure deployment. Paying attention to trends and identifying which technology will likely be phased out in the coming years is vital in determining the best solutions for building a future-proof IT infrastructure.

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