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Why is My VDI so Slow, and How Can I Make it Better?

Companies that opt for a Virtual Desktop Integration (VDI) over a traditional computing environment enjoy access to a number of advantages. But that is only if their VDI is operating at a high level. There is room for improvement for nearly every computing network, and VDIs are no exception. To ensure that a VDI is performing optimally it may be necessary to conduct an assessment.

How a VDI assessment is conducted depends on the software in use. Generally, a comparative investigation between a company’s VDI and the expressed best practices of the software provider whose product runs the environment is executed. For example, if a company’s VDI runs on Citrix XenDesktop the network would be assessed and compared to Citrix’s suggested methodologies. The comparative assessment of the company environment and the software provider’s best practices environment creates a dichotomy between the actual and the optimal. But more than this, the comparison identifies how to bridge the gaps between the actual and the optimal.

Areas of assessment that commonly expose gaps between a company’s VDI environment and an optimal VDI implementation include:

  • Image deployment
  • Application delivery
  • User profiles
  • User settings
  • Storage availability
  • Application launch time
  • Logon speed

Examining the performance levels of these areas, and comparing the results to where they ideally should be, demonstrates what needs to be done to optimize a VDI. Of course, identifying these gaps is only the beginning; they must also be bridged.

Bridging performance gaps is a process that is dependent upon the specific findings of a VDI assessment. There are various potential causes that may lead to underperformance in any one of the listed areas. Identifying the specific causes of underperformance and taking the steps to rectify them is a component of the process that usually benefits from the aid of a virtualization specialist.

Between the expertise of a virtualization solutions provider, the VDI assessment, and the assessment of the VDI’s best practices, the environment in question can be optimized, granting a company the full array of benefits associated with virtual desktops.

Louis Le

As a key member of the Gibraltar Leadership Team, Louis specializes in initiating meaningful engagements with employees, customers and vendors. With skills ranging from marketing, to sales, to pricing analyst, Louis tackles challenges with an unwavering positive attitude. Louis Le brings a wealth of experience to his role as Director of Marketing for Gibraltar Solutions Inc. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario’s Honours Business Administration program, Louis has built a lengthy career working in marketing, sales and financial roles for some of Canada’s best known technology companies.


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What disk image should I use with VirtualBox, VDI, VMDK, VHD or HDD? Super User #free #vdi


Latest versions of VirtualBox supports several formats for virtual disks, but they forgot to provide a comparison between them.

Now, I am interested about a recommendation or comparison that considers the following:

  • be able to use dynamic sizing
  • be able to have snapshots
  • be able to move my virtual machine to another OS or even another free virtualization solution with minimal effort (probably something that would run fine on Ubuntu).
  • performance

asked Nov 23 ’11 at 0:28

VirtualBox has full support for VDI. VMDK. and VHD and support for Parallels Version 2 (HDD) (not newer versions) .

Answering Your Considerations

  • be able to use dynamic sizing

VDI. VMDK. and VHD all support dynamically allocated sizing. VMDK has an additional capability of splitting the storage file into files less than 2 GB each, which is useful if your file system has a small file size limit.

  • be able to have snapshots

All four formats support snapshots on VirtualBox.

  • be able to move my virtual machine to another OS or even another free virtualization solution with minimal effort (probably something that would run fine on Ubuntu).

VDI is the native format of VirtualBox. I didn’t search for any other software that supports this format.

VMDK is developed by and for VMWare, but Sun xVM, QEMU, VirtualBox, SUSE Studio, and .NET DiscUtils also support it. (This format might be the most apt for you because you want virtualization software that would run fine on Ubuntu. )

VHD is the native format of Microsoft Virtual PC. This is a format that is popular with Microsoft products.

I don’t know anything about HDD. Judging from looking at this site. Parallels is a Mac OS X product and probably isn’t suitable for you, especially considering that VirtualBox only supports an old version of the HDD format.

The format should not affect performance, or at least, performance impacts are negligible.

The factors that influence performance are:

  • your physical device limitations (much more noticeable on a hard disk drive than a solid-state drive. Why? )
  • expanding a dynamically allocated virtual disk drive (write operations are slower as the virtual disk expands, but once it’s large enough, expanding should happen less)
  • virtualization technology (hardware vs. software ; hardware virtualization helps VirtualBox and improves the speed of virtual operating systems)
  • the fact that you are running a virtual operating system. Performance is always slower than running an operating system on the host because of the virtualization process.

answered Jun 22 ’12 at 20:33

I always use VDI, as it is the native format of VirtualBox; however, using a VMDK (VMWare format) will increase compatibility with other virtual machine software.

VirtualBox will run fine on Ubuntu, so if the goal is Windows/Ubuntu interoperability, VDI would be a perfectly valid choice.

Both formats will fulfill your requirements.

As for the other two, VHD is a Microsoft-developed format, and HDD is an Apple-developed format; these are both proprietarily-licensed, so limit cross-platform support; I wouldn’t recommend them.

Mpack, explains a key performance difference between VHD and VDI here:

Having recently studied the VHD format, I would expect there to be at least a small difference in VDIs favor, most noticeable when you are comparing like with like, i.e. an optimized VDI vs optimized VHD. The reason is that the dynamic VHD format has these “bitmap” sectors scattered throughout the disk. Every time you modify a sector inside a block these bitmap blocks may need to be updated and written too, involving extra seeks, reads and writes. These bitmap sectors also have to be skipped over when reading consecutive clusters from a drive image – more seeks. The VDI format doesn’t have these overheads, especially if the VDI has been optimized (blocks on the virtual disk sorted into LBA order).

All of my comments apply to the dynamic VHD format vs dynamic VDI. Performance tests on fixed sized virtual disks is pointless since both formats are then the same (just a plain image of a disk), they just have different headers on them.

answered May 8 ’14 at 14:20

I don’t know if using vmdk would enable you to transparently run a virtual machine created in VirtualBox in VMware or not. It might. However a more universal option might be to use the VirtualBox File/Export function to create an “Open Virtualization Appliance” .ova file that can then be imported into VMware. With that approach, you can port to any virtualization system that supports .ova without caring what disk image format you use in VirtualBox.

If you need to export from the same VM at regular intervals, e.g. every day, that could be a pain. But if you only move to a different technology occasionally, it should be fine.

If you have a .vdi file already, You can test whether this works without having to create a new virtual machine. Export it to a .ova, then try importing with vmware.

answered Jul 3 ’12 at 21:22

A good reason for me for using vmdk is that Virtualbox (at least until v4.1) using VDI format has the tendency, over time, to fill the complete allocated disk space, even though the internal virtual disk usage is still much less. With Virtualbox using vmdk disks, this seems less of a problem.

But I’m talking years uptime. This might not be a problem many people encounter.

answered Jan 30 ’15 at 15:13

It s more related to the fragmentation of the guest file system than to the format itself. Enzo Jun 3 ’16 at 15:19

It depends on how you plan to use virtual disk as well. Not every VM wants a single partition on a single disk.

VDI seems to have more options (when used with VirtualBox), but as soon as you take VirtualBox out of the picture, support for VDI becomes somewhat shaky (as of late 2014).

For instance my solutions need to have maximum cross-platform support. Mounting a VDI (such as a loopback device) on linux or Windows 7 is harder and buggier than you might expect. Almost like the VDI has too many features, making it difficult to make fully conforming utilities that can operate on it.

VMDK is just less painless IMHO when you want it to work with any VM on any workstation, when you want to clone it 3 times to other systems on the network at the same time, and when you want to pry it open without launching a VM instance.

Even though I use VirtualBox 90% of the time, those few times when my disks become unaccessable in certain workflows have led me to favor VMDK for pluggable/shared filesystems.

answered Jan 8 ’15 at 4:33

Disk image files reside on the host system and are seen by the guest systems as hard disks of a certain geometry. When a guest operating system reads from or writes to a hard disk, VirtualBox redirects the request to the image file.

Like a physical disk, a virtual disk has a size (capacity), which must be specified when the image file is created. As opposed to a physical disk however, VirtualBox allows you to expand an image file after creation, even if it has data already; VirtualBox supports four variants of disk image files:

VDI: Normally, VirtualBox uses its own container format for guest hard disks — Virtual Disk Image (VDI) files. In particular, this format will be used when you create a new virtual machine with a new disk.

VMDK:VirtualBox also fully supports the popular and open VMDK container format that is used by many other virtualization products, in particular, by VMware.[25]

VHD:VirtualBox also fully supports the VHD format used by Microsoft.

Image files of Parallels version 2 (HDD format) are also supported.[26] For lack of documentation of the format, newer formats (3 and 4) are not supported. You can however convert such image files to version 2 format using tools provided by Parallels.

answered Nov 28 ’15 at 18:23

Looks like using VDI makes possible to trim disk file to its actual size VirtualBox and SSD s TRIM command support

answered Nov 19 ’16 at 0:23

While accurate it s a bit lackluster for a question that asks about the general differences between those formats, don t you think? Seth Nov 21 ’16 at 11:02

Guide To VDI: Evaluating Top Vendors #vdi, #amazon, #aws, #citrix, #microsoft, #vmware, #xendesktop, #daas

Guide To VDI: Evaluating Top Vendors

Desktop virtual infrastructure now includes new cloud-based options, with the potential for improved user experience and lower cost. Fusion PPT compared the leading vendors and their offerings.

In spite of its many perceived benefits, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has yet to fully gain traction and still remains a niche market. After well over a decade since its early introduction, VDI has faced challenges when it comes to truly duplicating the local desktop and competing on cost.

The introduction of cloud-based computing models for VDI (known as desktop as a service or DaaS) now offers a combined benefit and challenge to the IT decision maker. Whereas on-premise data center-hosted VDI represented a known model that has been tested and refined over the years, cloud-based VDI is the new kid on the block and has yet to effectively prove itself.

In this guide, we take look at four of the leading VDI vendors, including their capabilities and differentiators. These include Amazon (AWS), Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware (an EMC company). Read on for the full discussion, or click on the thumbnail at right to jump to the comparison matrix.

3 main reasons to use VDI
So why would anyone consider adopting a VDI-based approach to desktop computing? Well, on paper, the expected benefits seem quite compelling. Will they pan out in the long run?

  1. Centralized and simplified IT desktop management
    To begin, take the scenario of patch management. In VDI, patches and software updates can be distributed in a centralized and simplified manner, because IT no longer needs to manage the individual deployment to each unique computer. The deployment can also occur from a centralized management console. Updates need not be solely to desktop PCs, but also can include mobile devices and thin clients.

A centralized server-hosted virtual desktop (SHVD) infrastructure also provides the benefit of simplified backup operations. With proper infrastructure and bandwidth in place, such an approach will minimize the network congestion of backups that would otherwise occur from a myriad of desktop systems.

VDI also enables IT to provide higher security control and compliance. Servers can now be locked down and secured in a more manageable manner, with less risk to local desktop vulnerabilities. For example, administrators can provide central security policies that apply to all users and minimize the malware footprint, should there be an infection. The desktop can be re-commissioned from the base image when problems arise.

  • Reduced cost and hardware
    Harnessing the power of server pools that are unseen to the end user, VDI offers the benefit of more effective use of centralized computing capacity. This can translate in real dollars to a diminished need to purchase new hardware and the additional associated software, licensing, and support costs that are seen in capex and opex dollars. As one scenario, older desktop hardware (with sufficient native capacity) can be retained and used as thin client devices for users who are working on general-purpose tasks that do not require high-end client devices.
  • Increased mobility and remote access
    Another important benefit that VDI provides is the ability to access desktop from remote locations, and with different computing devices. This can be a very accommodating feature for remote and mobile workers who do not really have a fixed work location. With many VDI solutions, the active desktop state can be preserved, enabling users to pick up right where they left off.
  • In this guide, we look at four enterprise vendors providing VDI-based products. There are many other mid-market VDI vendors, as well as open-source solutions from StackVDI, QVD, and others.

    VDI delivery methods
    Vendors have chosen different means to implement VDI. Historically, solutions first began with the typical on-premise server-hosted virtual desktop model, focusing on the data center. As VDI and cloud computing have matured, a second software-as-a-service model of desktop computing has been reborn in the form as DaaS.

    In its simplest form, DaaS is VDI in the cloud. However, as with all cloud-based solutions, the customer must rely upon the cloud service provider (CSP) to deliver critical infrastructure that is no longer under the control of the IT organization. DaaS solutions are marketed as being able to handle the challenges of traditional VDI, such as complexity and cost. In DaaS, customers pay a monthly flat fee and are able to obtain a VDI infrastructure without the initial investment.

    The third option consists of a hybrid approach that leverages both the on-premise and cloud-based models.

    It’s also worth noting that various DaaS providers deliver their “desktop” experience via Windows Server (AWS and VMware, for example). This is primarily done as a way around Microsoft’s multi-tenancy licensing, Microsoft’s Service Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA), which requires the hosting hardware to be dedicated to each individual customer. SPLA also requires customers to own the client OS license.


    Re: Guide To VDI: Evaluating Top Vendors

    Zerox, you’re right, this article is not for the faint of heart. It is long and a lot of information to wade through. But for anyone seriously considering VDI, it’s a jackpot of practical considerations and objective insight. We’re thankful that Dean and his firm published it here.

    User Rank: Apprentice

    Fri, 02/20/2015 – 09:35

    Re: Guide To VDI: Evaluating Top Vendors

    VDI: Thin Clients or PCs? #vdi, #thin #clients, #thick #clients, #pc, #virtual #desktop #infrastructure


    VDI at the Desktop: Thin Clients or PCs for Better TCO?

    Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), a platform that uses various virtualization technology aspects to implement a rich IT platform through a central, virtualized back end that hosts virtual machines (VMs).

    VDI architectures include everything from server virtualization to storage, application virtualization, connections, protocols and more. One of the last aspects of VDI typically considered is the desktop and its user.

    VDI requires upfront costs, so by the time IT gets to the desktop side; further upfront costs need to be minimized. Keeping existing PCs appears to be “cheaper” then switching to thin clients for VDI. Is that really the case? Do thin clients or PCs for VDI have a better total cost of ownership (TCO)?

    Comparing Desktop Hardware – Components, Factors, and Cost

    A PC also known as a thick client, is comprised of a lot of components compared to a thin client. With each PC you have (at minimum) a hard drive, media ports, OS, applications and anti-virus software. Then a thin client only has the thin client OS and a small about of applications if required.

    PCs typically have a 4 year expected life where thin clients have a 6 year expected life. The media ports and hard drive open up the possibilities for a security breach. At the same time the user then can install their software which also increases security risks. PCs are typically un-managed desktop devices limiting the security capabilities for the desktop user. Thin clients are locked down devices eliminated the users’ ability to download unless permitted and all devices can be managed through a thin client management console such as Echo .

    When looking at hardware cost it’s simple. Thin Clients are cheaper then PCs. PCs typically start pricing at around $599. With thin clients, the cost per unit really depends on the unit each user requires. Someone whose daily tasks entail the use of simple applications such as outlook and they can use a device such as the Ceptor that will come in around $99. Where as a user that runs multiple applications continuously may require a more advanced device that supports high performance visuals such as the Veriton N2110G and comes in under $300.

    Exploring the Cost per User for VDI

    In most VDI deployments, organizations transition from PCs to thin clients over time. While every organization is different, we have typically seen around 1/3 of VDI users move to thin client devices and the other 2/3s utilize software options such as VDI Blaster. This software converts PCs that are towards the end of their life spans to make them (functionally) into thin clients.

    Then there are software licensing costs that are always tough to estimate. Vendors have many different programs and license types and many customers are able to negotiate their own special pricing. However on average we see this cost is roughly $150 per user. But for Microsoft licensing, customers only need to purchase VDA licenses for the percentage of their devices that are thin clients or not covered under Microsoft SA licensing as they start replacing their PCs over time.

    *The initial cost analysis that follows is based on 1/3 of the devices as thin clients and the other 2/3 as repurposed PCs.

    Hardware Cost

    • Thin Client Software for Physical PCs (66% of devices) = $35 per repurposed PC
    • Thin Clients (33% of devices) = $200 per thin client
    • Average Cost Per User of Thin Client Device or Software = $66 ($200 x 33% of users) + $23 ($35 x 66%) = $89 per user

    Licensing Costs

    • VDI Software = $150 per user
    • Microsoft VDA License (33% of devices) = $33 per user

    Overall VDI Initial Cost per User Comparison

    Thin Client


    When creating VDI environment, no one environment is the same and each will have different requirements and priorities. The process itself can be time consuming and complex. It is extremely important to look at all the technologies and aspects involved right down to the desktop. Request a more complete TCO analysis on your specific environment. We take real company data and give you a report as shown below.

    Sample VDI Assessment TCO Calculation

    Also for other things to look out for in a VDI deployment check out our Infographic: 11 Steps to Roll-Out a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure .