Thought Leadership

The Tipping Point: A Fresh Look at Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

The rise of mobility has many organizations rethinking their end user computing strategy. Infrastructures built even a few years ago cannot handle the influx of new devices and remote access needed to support ever-expanding digital demands. Whether it’s a large enterprise with 15,000 seats or a smaller company with several hundred deployments, decision makers are reviewing their options and looking for every way to get more value out of their next move.

In particular, current technologies lack visibility and control for mobile users. While accommodating end user requests to have access to their work when and where it’s wanted, organizations must also maintain compliance, ensure data security and limit bandwidth consumption for lower priority needs. IT consolidations brought about by more frequent mergers and acquisitions compound further stress the system.

Today’s Computing Environment Needs So Much More

We’re all familiar with this scenario: aging devices are depreciating and approaching end of life. The time has come to buy new technology, and it’s time to make a decision. New applications and systems like Windows 10 require more resources than your aging desktops can handle. It’s time to upgrade the end user experience.  The solution needs to be a long-term one – meaning it should last for the next 5-10 years.

Meanwhile, employees’ demands are at an all-time high. They require flexibility to work from anywhere with seamless performance and full functionality. They also need the freedom to collaborate and share with colleagues, to be productive remotely.

From an IT perspective, this kind of flexibility comes at a price. To gain better control over data usage and sharing, IT managers are caught between demands for greater flexibility from end users and the need to have a tighter grip on data to manage security and compliance. Managing this push and pull, while simultaneously driving down costs and reducing downtime, is a tall order.

An Overlooked Solution?

For all the above reasons, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) should be getting a serious look, but has often been disregarded in the past. Many organizations stuck their foot in the water at the very beginning of the VDI cycle, to see if this would be a viable solution. In the past, challenges like the need to hire new staff to support a centralized computing model, large upfront infrastructure expenses or even problems with graphic intensive programs posed serious barriers to adoption. With more companies considering both lifetime TCO and as-a-service models, VDI is once again ascending in popularity.

Why VDI is Finally Catching On

The idea of hosted virtual desktops used to be complex and mysterious compared to traditional computing. But now that organizations are more familiar with the advantages of virtualization, hyperconvergence, and composability there is a wave of interest in simplifying the data center. Some may have had a poor experience with VDI in the past, such as lower-than-expected performance and difficulty getting buy-in from end users. However, today’s generation of more advanced VDI solutions are a different animal.

There are several reasons why virtual desktop solutions are catching eyes again. Performance has improved due to technology advancements, management is easier, data is more secure, and total cost of ownership is often less.

Performance – Improved networks with 4G technology and better WAN optimization are solving the latency problems that were an unfortunate characteristic of VDI. Data can be transferred quickly and reliably, opening the door for shared environments even with remote data centers and users. Additionally, the ability to add virtual GPUs to enhance graphics performance required by Windows 10 and many other applications is mitigating the problem of overworked processors, leading to good end user experiences. No more lagging mouse syndrome or waiting and waiting for a log-in.  CAD performance struggles can be things of the past.

Management, Security and Compliance – Utilizing a centralized computing model drastically simplifies the management of mobile devices, while still allowing IT to provide adequate data protection. Data isn’t housed on individual machines, which prevents the need for expensive remote wipe solutions or the possibility of a security or compliance breach. VDI also eliminates the age-old issue of employees sending confidential documents to their personal email for work at night. Organizations can simply allow users to log into their VDI environment anytime, with controlled access based on user permission. Data loss prevention and data security are also better served in a shared environment, where data backups can be scheduled frequently without disrupting workflows.

Cost & Efficiency – This is where VDI really shines in the long run. Compared to traditional computing, hosted desktops can have a much lower total cost over time. This is because new machines can be rolled out as thin clients with extended productive lifetimes. Instead of depreciating over 4-5 years, devices that need less computing power may last 8-10 years, since the bulk of computing takes place in the centralized server.  Opex consumption models can also be offered, with monthly billings for just what you use.

A hosted desktop model takes up less physical space in the data center. It uses less power and less cooling than the traditional client server environment. If endpoints go down, you simply pull up your environment on another device without losing all your data, so there’s no need to account for end user downtime.

Windows and application updates are also easier in this environment, as rollouts take minutes versus days or weeks. There is no need for physical hands on a laptop, and no need to ask for a machine to be left on at a particular time. We’re talking real productivity here!

Recognizing the Business Value of Virtualization

More businesses are moving to shared-hosted virtual desktops because they are recognizing the business value: lower operational costs, greater flexibility, quicker scalability, decreased downtime and often most importantly, data security. Companies are also paying more attention to soft costs today than they were 10 years ago. With VDI companies need fewer staff to manage the environment, so their important resources can be reallocated to other business initiatives. In addition, VDI adds another layer of data protection and compliance.

At the end of the day, more organizations are taking a fresh look at VDI – and liking what they see. For many years it seemed that VDI was at its tipping point, and now it’s finally here. Companies are asking the question, “why are we doing things the old way?” The benefits of centralized management on a shared, virtualized infrastructure for the new mobile world can no longer be ignored, especially since gains in flexibility, management, security, and lower costs are central to growth and survival.

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