Sierraware Blog

Comparing the Costs of VMI and VDI

(SPOILER: VDI Is Much More Expensive)

There are many reasons to move from Virtual Desktop to Virtual Mobile Infrastructure (VMI). But one of the most important considerations is cost. VMI is much more cost effective than Windows-based VDI for several reasons.

Before we compare the upfront and ongoing expenses of all three solutions, let’s take a look at each one and their respective benefits and drawbacks. VDI is well known and understood; it’s a technology that allows organizations to host Windows desktops in a data center and access those desktops remotely from any device. Since application developers traditionally designed business applications for Windows, VDI provides a great way to access those applications from laptops, thin clients, or even mobile devices.

However, VDI also has its share of limitations. First, Windows itself is a bulky operating system and requires about one to two gigabytes of memory per virtual machine (VM). This means that even the most powerful servers can only host a small number of desktop environments per server. The unwieldy size of Windows also means that organizations with thousands of VDI clients will need to set up complex virtual environments that include complicated VM management, clustering, storage, and more. Large-scale VDI deployments are not for the faint of heart.

Now, let’s take a look at VMI and mobile app virtualization. Intel coined the term Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) back in 2009, when managers observed that employees were increasingly bringing in their own smartphones to work to access corporate applications. One year later—in 2010—Apple unveiled the iPad which accelerated the BYOD trend and ushered in the era of the tablet. Fast forward five years. Today, employees not only bring their phones and tablets to work, but companies have integrated mobile devices, both employee and corporate-owned, into all aspects of business.

Organizations now develop business apps for mobile devices, not just Windows desktops. However, organizations still face the same IT operations, security, and software device compatibility challenges that Windows VDI helped solve. VMI for Android fills the void, by offering remote access, centralized app management, and security for mobile applications. Like VDI, VMI allows users to remotely access applications and operating systems hosted remotely. But VMI is developed expressly for mobile clients, not desktops, and it hosts Android applications, not Windows.

VMI offers the following features tailored for mobile devices:

  • Low bandwidth connections – Support for a wide range of video compression algorithms that is optimized for 3G cellular networks.
  • Common smartphone hardware – Sensors adjust compression based not only on bandwidth but device CPU and GPU capabilities–customized for the unique graphics rendering capabilities of ARM-based devices.
  • High-density cloud deployment – SierraVMI’s multi-tenant architecture with secure containers allows organizations to host mobile app virtualization services in the cloud.

More importantly, with VMI and mobile app virtualization, users can access applications that were designed for touch input and mobile screen sizes, not for Windows desktops.

And then, of course, there is cost. Organizations can deploy VMI for a fraction of the price of VDI. Because of its greater density, organizations can gain even greater savings with mobile app virtualization than with VMI. The table below reveals our estimated costs of Windows app virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructure from Citrix or VMware for a company with 1,000 users for one year.

Cut BYOD Budget by 90% with VMI

Windows App Virtualization


Servers Hardware



Microsoft Operating System



Microsoft CAL



VDI (Citrix/VMware)



Storage, Networking and IT Costs






VMI Advantages

  • Android requires no per-user license fees
  • VMI reduces hardware expenses because it is more efficient than Windows-based virtualization
  • VMI is easy to deploy with minimal IT changes

Because VMI offers higher density per server, VMI and mobile app virtualization dramatically lower hardware costs. In addition, IT managers don’t need to oversee complicated environments with dozens of servers and advanced VM migration, VM management, and other components, so they can also reduce operating costs.

Interested to learn more? Contact Sierraware to set up a demo. Or you can check out our new SierraVMI overview on SlideShare.