All posts by amitabhsinha

Three essential questions to ask VDI providers in the cloud era

As the workforce has become more dispersed, organisations have looked to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to provide 24/7, anywhere access to corporate apps and desktops. But legacy VDI has fallen far short of its promises, especially when it comes to performance and simplifying IT. However, with cloud adoption accelerating, organisations have the opportunity to completely transform end user computing, deliver beyond the promise of VDI, and take advantage of new levels of agility that drive growth. 

The cloud VDI market, sometimes referred to as desktop as a service (DaaS), is experiencing explosive growth, but within the space, there are multiple approaches and their differences are vitally important for IT leaders to understand. To help determine what the best deployment and management approach is to meet an organisation’s unique needs, there are three primary questions to ask VDI and DaaS providers: 

  • Is the solution globally available? 
  • Is the solution customisable for enterprise needs? 
  • Is the solution turnkey? 

Let’s take a closer look at the three questions you need to ask virtual desktop providers.

Is the solution globally available? 

Most enterprise software was built for one customer and for one data centre. So, the focus was on making the software as scalable as possible within one data centre. That’s the case with legacy VDI. 

It requires a significant amount of resources and has proven cumbersome for most organisations to operate VDI even within a single data centre – let alone three or four. So, a customer might choose to deploy the VDI stack in just one data centre to reduce complexity and management overhead. However, in a larger organisation, most users are not close to that data centre. Because they’re remote, they’re subject to high latency and low bandwidth connections. These networks also can have high packet loss, which requires the use of expensive leased lines to solve.

The upshot is high latency and unhappy users. Even though various remoting protocols have been employed to try to optimise performance, they can’t change the laws of physics.

But a new approach exists now, thanks to the public cloud. Instead of one data centre, the public cloud is made up of many data centres distributed across the globe. Today Microsoft Azure has 54 cloud regions worldwide and more coming, which means that every organisation using Azure now has 54 data centres. It’s time to put them to use.

Because Azure is a globally distributed cloud, it requires a globally distributed cloud VDI solution – and that all comes down to solution architecture. A cloud-native solution, based on a globally distributed architecture, is what you need to look for; it’s the only way to get the performance, security and scalability benefits that have eluded traditional VDI  – whether it’s on-premises or in the cloud – but which are very real today. With the right cloud VDI solution, IT teams can deploy desktops at the edge of the cloud region nearest each user. These edge-native virtual desktops can be deployed within about 25 milliseconds of any user in the world, and that means users get incredible performance.

Is the solution customisable for enterprise needs? 

Ideally, IT teams will be able to manage all their virtual resources – apps, desktops and workstations – using their existing tools and processes, from a single pane of glass. That’s one way to simplify management processes and reduce the need for retraining. To meet the needs of enterprises, the ability to use existing corporate images, integrate with popular enterprise apps such as Skype and Microsoft Teams, and use established GPOs, security policies and multifactor authentication, is required.

One critical aspect of security is strong authentication, but more is needed. A virtual desktop architecture that separates the control plane from the data plane is fundamental to security, because it means that an organisation’s valuable data stays safe and doesn’t enter the virtual desktop control plane. Find out whether potential solutions offer this separation.

Because the IT budget is perennially tight, another important requirement to add to your list is the ability to easily integrate existing IT service management solutions, such as ServiceNow and BMC Remedy. This will efficiently orchestrate desktop provisioning and resource lifecycles.

Is the solution turnkey?

There is the option to build-your-own  VDI solution using many available products, but experience has shown this route requires significant IT team and financial resources. The other option is to choose a turnkey service. Deploying a cloud VDI solution can be as easy as buying a physical PC. Simply choose your configuration:  CPU, memory and storage, and whether or not you want a GPU. Then deploy it in the cloud region closest to the end user. Even better, what if you could scale horizontally across cloud regions – globally – in minutes? Ask providers what’s possible now.

With a truly turnkey service, the provider should own the reliability and availability service level agreement (SLA). Many IT teams want to get out of the desktop SLA business, because it’s time-consuming busy-work that detracts from accomplishing more strategic objectives that contribute to business growth. Know what a vendor’s uptime stats mean and what you’re willing to tolerate in terms of downtime. There’s no reason to accept less than 99.95% desktop availability. 

Goodbye to “good enough”

Some organisations have gotten used to settling for a VDI solution that is slow and expensive because it’s better than nothing. But something better is now possible, thanks to the availability of cloud-native VDI solutions that quickly and easily scale across cloud regions; enterprises don’t have to settle for “good enough” anymore.

By asking the three questions above, you will be able to vet providers to find the VDI solution that will best match your enterprise’s needs, and provide the business agility you need to thrive. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

Putting the D in VDI: How virtual desktop infrastructure got its desktop back

The point of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is to offer employees anytime, anywhere accessibility to your organization’s applications and data. VDI is a “desktop away from the desktop.” The problem is that more emphasis has had to be placed on the infrastructure part of VDI due to outdated technology that creates complexity. But newer VDI technology is about to restore the desktop to its rightful place.

A promising beginning

In a tradition dating back more than a quarter of a century, when it’s time to buy desktops, the IT department focuses on how much CPU, memory and storage comes with each desktop. Why should a virtual desktop project be any different? IT staff should spend their time thinking about the same desktop attributes. Instead, they spend most of their time talking about "infrastructure": servers, storage, layers, management tools and much more. Managing all this infrastructure is exhausting and expensive, and when the focus is on the "I" and not on the "D," users end up unhappy and IT staff end up frustrated. How did this happen?

IT typically spends about $1500 USD (roughly €1200) per desktop or laptop. That cost is amortized over three to four years. But the overhead of dealing with physical desktops is often unsustainable, and once the world went mobile, being tethered to a desktop was a sure way to give your competitors the advantage. In response, some IT teams made the decision to deploy virtual desktops and apps.

The promise of VDI was compelling: Greater IT efficiency and information security and a productive mobile workforce.  But in order to implement VDI on-premises, IT needs to translate the desktop attributes into expensive and complex data center technologies. IT staff started asking questions like, “If I have 1000 users, how many servers do I need? How much shared SAN/NAS storage do I need? In which data centers do I put this infrastructure?”

A complicated middle act

With traditional VDI there are many moving parts. Organizations that choose VDI need to determine how many servers they’ll need.  “Which applications are used? What is the CPU and memory usage rate? How many users can I fit onto a certain class of servers? Do I need 20, 30 or 50 servers for 1000 users?” It all depends on usage. 

Even trickier is the struggle to determine storage needs. Local storage on PCs is the cheapest storage available – about $100/TB. SAN/NAS can be 25-100 times that cost. If each user had 1TB of storage on their desktop, then you would need 1000 TB of SAN/NAS. That is massively expensive.

To keep VDI from dying on the vine, providers created various ways to optimize storage. The conversation went something like this: “Oh, you can optimize with a single image so you don't need to have 1000 copies of Windows OS. Now, let's put in layers so you don't need to have 1000 copies of each application. Wait, what about profile management tools to store end user personalization? You need that, too. Oh, and you can no longer manage it with your existing PC management tools like SCCM and Altiris. So, your VDI infrastructure is a stand-alone management framework.”

Now, these workarounds may seem viable, but they fail to take into account the fact that Windows wasn't architected to operate in this manner. So, customers struggle with app compatibility, corrupted profiles and application updates that blow away desktops. At the same time, the storage vendors started implementing de-duplication so that the 1000 copies of Windows and applications in each user's desktop were automatically de-duped at the storage layer. Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) vendors ultimately adopted de-duplication, and even though HCI really began to affect the cost of VDI implementations, it hasn't gone far enough.

At this point in the process, you have to plan for where all this infrastructure is going to live. Which data center should it be in? How far away will all your end users be from that data center? What does that mean for latency? How will their user experience be? How much bandwidth will they require? 

A solid finish

So then, the infrastructure had to be addressed before the desktop could get its moment in the spotlight. IT departments have had to jump through complex infrastructural hoops to deliver a mission-critical workload to a class of users. But there are more important things for IT teams to do and more value for them to add than dealing with all this complexity. 

The advent of cloud computing created an opportunity to completely re-imagine what the phrase “virtual desktops” means. Now, the data center is any region of the public cloud you select. Essentially, the infrastructure becomes invisible in that region – at least in terms of you having to worry about it. Desktops can be placed close to the users so they have a great experience. All IT needs to do is determine the configuration of the desktop, just like they determine the configuration of a physical PC.

It is similar and, in fact, simpler to buy a desktop cloud solution than it is to buy a PC. The IT team simply chooses a desktop configuration running in Azure. They order the number of units needed for their end users. Then they use their corporate image to create copies of desktops in the various regions where the users are. But rather than shipping a PC to each user, IT simply emails a link for their desktop.

In this way, cloud computing has restored the emphasis on the desktop and eliminated infrastructure complexity. Instead of fretting over infrastructure, organizations can now focus on what class of desktop their users need. It’s no longer a question of how many servers they will need but how much CPU. And when needs change, modify the desktop configuration in minutes. Users will have a better experience and IT teams can concentrate on higher-value projects. Now VDI is delivered simply and efficiently as a turnkey service.