Agencies Differ in VDI Acquisition Plans

So you’ve heard all of the arguments, you’ve balanced the pros and cons, and you’ve final­ly decided that a virtual desktop infrastruc­ture (VDI) deployment is the way your agency should go. What’s the best way to buy VDI? Like everything in government, it probably depends on your budget, what kind of system you are buying, and where you are buying it from. It will likely also depend on what you already have in place.

The recent 1105 Public Sector Media Group survey was split on the options. In 2011, most agencies seemed to prefer a one-time purchase—the traditional way to buy large IT systems. Since then, preferences have changed. Nearly 54 percent of survey respon­dents said their agency still preferred the one-time purchase for procuring VDI. However, the rest said they were more interested in paying a cloud provider on a monthly basis to deliver VDI as a service.

VDI Fits Well into Various Payment Models

For an agency with a fairly large budget, the one-time model probably fits the circumstances better. The FBI, for example, awarded a $28 million contract to Dell in 2015 to supply a 55,000 seat VDI deployment. At the time, this was the largest VDI contract in the government. The DOD is poised to become one of the largest government VDI shops as it looks for ways to efficiently roll out Windows 10 upgrades to as many as 4 million desktop users.

Pay-as-you go would fit well with the kind of gradual approach a lot of organizations are taking with VDI, with many early deployments in the pilot stage. That’s likely to be followed by a cautious, phased approach to full deployment. Bring users in during one phase, then move on to the next and gradually increase the budget. This building block approach leans more to the pay-as-you-go approach.

The size of an agency’s desktop environment often shapes its acquisition strategy. Agencies with smaller deployments might go direct to their preferred software vendor. But the bigger the desktop environment—which is to say, the bigger the risk—the more likely an agency will work with a systems integrator or value-added reseller.

Systems integrators and VARs also are appealing because they can provide some much-needed technology expertise. More than half of respondents (51 percent) said their agencies were interested in VDI in part because their IT staff resources were stretched too thin. A third-party can augment the staff as an agency undertakes a VDI deployment. In the same vein, as noted earlier, some agencies prefer to involve a third-party service provider even when deploying VDI as an on-premise solution. 

One final note: The brand name does matter. Agencies that are already doing server virtualization are more likely to stick with the same brand when moving to desktop virtualization.