An IT tech with basic group policy and scripting skills is able to achieve profile migration for free. If, however, the customer requires the "comfort" of a packaged product to achieve what a few scripts will do, there are numerous profile management and migration solutions available from small and large companies alike. Even though the expense may represent some added cost (which, as mentioned, can be avoided), it will probably still handily beat the extra investment necessitated by centralized storage.
Finally, how do we deal with applications? In simple environments where there are a few application configurations, you can likely get away with just having a small number of pre-configured VMs that represent each app configuration. You start off with this master copy, clone it for the needs of an individual user, then mount user data volumes and copy the profile over via group policy on login and you're done.
In enterprise environments where hundreds of application configurations need to be supported across tens of thousands of images, it will be simpler to use a base VM for the OS config, but add Application Streaming or Application Virtualization to customize the image from an app perspective.
VDI delivers unquestionable advantages and a far more flexible delivery architecture for enterprise desktops, and hopefully this article shows you can deploy VDI without centralized storage, at reduced cost, while still delivering most of the advantages of desktop virtualization.
While the approach highlighted is just one of many possible, it is a vendor-agnostic approach and does not require a specific type of hypervisor to work. There are vendor-specific methodologies too, which readers may investigate based on their hypervisor preference. Hopefully, by leveraging our approach, or a variation thereof, the cost of centralized storage will not prevent smaller companies and distributed teams from experiencing the exciting world of virtual desktop computing.
Amir Husain is the president and CEO of VDIworks, an Austin, Texas-based developer of VDI management software. He holds over a dozen filed and awarded patents in virtualization and cloud computing. Amir was the CTO and currently sits on the board of ClearCube Technology, the world's first developer of PC Blade and Connection Brokering technology. Amir is also a board member at Pepper.pk, the maker of 3 World #1 Mobile Applications and Wheel InnovationZ, a Texas-based stealth startup focused on mobile cloud computing.