Desktop virtualisation, BYOD and how to transform a company with 140,000 employees in nearly 60 countries

ITProPortal chats with Andrey Zhulenev, Group Head, Advanced Technologies at Wipro on changing the working habits of thousands of employees and the challenges he met.

1. Could you give us a top-level overview of Wipro and the work it does in the IT outsourcing market?

Wipro is in the IT services business working with large enterprises in all major industry sectors. We offer a comprehensive portfolio of services including business consulting and IT services that span application development, maintenance, support, system integration and more. We have over 140,000 employees in 57 countries.

2. What does the Wipro computing environment need to support?

Our environment is complex; the majority of our employees are geographically dispersed consultants, developers, testers and engineers. As a result, Wipro sets up dedicated offshore development centres for our customers in India and across the world. These centers require strict security and outstanding reliability involving many different IT configurations and applications. Our Talent Transformation department trains thousands of engineers per month in a variety of locations, which often requires a dedicated computing environment for a short period of time.

3. How did Wipro get on the road to desktop virtualisation?

Wipro's end-user computing transformation journey actually started with mobility. Like many of our customers, we had the requirement to support BYOD for our own highly mobile global sales force. This drove requirement to enable secure email on iPads, iPhones and Android devices and, over time, we added Windows phones and tablets to this mix. Very quickly, we realised the need to enable business apps on these devices and this resulted in the next phase of the project: to provide access to business applications through a Citrix based desktop virtualisation solution.

4. How does desktop virtualisation extend the Wipro environment beyond BYOD and mobile support?

Being in the IT services business, Wipro continually sets up project specific teams and creates a working environment, which needs to be dispersed after project completion. By using desktop virtualisation, Wipro is able to provision such environments instantly as well as enable engineers from anywhere in the world to access these systems and work together, improving project agility and access to talent. Being able to provision virtual training environments that employees can login to from anywhere and complete their exercises, not only improves accessibility of the training infrastructure, but also reduces the costs.

5. What business use cases do you think are a good fit for desktop virtualisation?

Looking across both our customer landscape and our own experience, three use cases stand out.

Collaboration: Today's knowledge-workers such as a researcher, engineers or an investment analysts work with tremendous amounts of information. This data cannot be stored on a laptop or an individual personal device and is increasingly placed within a central content management system, integrated into the corporate infrastructure. By providing these users with a virtual desktop, employees are granted central access to applications and data in a manner that improves collaboration and ultimately productivity.

Mobility: Another driving factor is mobility. Take the medical industry, when a doctor moves between rooms in a hospital, the desktop and all the related applications follow the physician and can be accessed seamlessly. A sales person on the road can access corporate CRM, ERP or other applications from anywhere, at any time.

Security: In certain industries like law, banking, insurance and healthcare, data security requirements demand higher level of information protection. Until now the solution was to enable access only on LAN, behind the corporate firewall. With desktop virtualisation, users can access any required application remotely extending the office beyond the walls of the office building.

6. What are the considerations and challenges businesses need to consider when deploying desktop virtualisation?

The challenges we've helped our customers overcome include integration, performance, and capacity.

Integration. With desktop virtualisation the desktop is moving into the datacentre. With this move, a number of integration points, such as internet access or accessing the local printer, need to be redesigned. This requires thorough capacity planning and user experience testing as suddenly the desktop is distant from the user and from the local printer, but closer to the corporate systems and corporate storage located in the datacentre.

Performance. These challenges are related to dynamic workloads; users may start with simple basic tasks to perform, like text editing and basic web browsing where the amount of data and compute processing requirement is relatively low. Moving then to voice over IP calling or watching videos consumes network capacity and may run into bottlenecks.

Capacity. The deployed solution can be brought to its capacity limits on compute and storage and this could start impacting the user experience. The system needs to be designed keeping in mind the potential use cases, as well as segregating users to minimise impact of one user community on another.

7. You developed an automation platform to deploy virtual desktops across the environment. What is the basic design?

The process of deployment includes a series of steps: capacity planning, defining the hardware configuration, determining firmware requirements, creating a network design, installing and configuring the hardware, software configuration and completing a set of integration and testing activities. This is to reduce this complexity and the timeframe from months to weeks.

To accomplish this, we standardized the hardware design and created automation for software installation and configuration. This way most of the setup steps can be replicated and automated. We've also automated provisioning assets to the users (applications, desktops) and provided a simple to use self-service portal.

8. You developed self-service capabilities. How is the system set up to support this?

The core functionality of the self-service portal is a simple App Store that enables users to see all available assets appropriate to their defined role and subscribe. The desktop or application is then automatically provisioned and the user can instantly log in and work with an application.

In addition to asset provisioning we provide other aspects of self-service such as reporting on user subscriptions, capacity utilisation, and chargeback; the solution can be easily integrated with other systems in the corporate environment.

9. What patterns of adoption are you seeing?

Mobility and BYOD initiatives are big drivers for adoption. To enable BYOD companies need to create an isolation layer for the corporate applications and data, so that the information is properly secured as well as enable wipe-out capability at the point of employee separation from the company.

Additional drivers include Microsoft Windows XP migrations; modernising application portfolios; company expansion due to acquisition or business strategy; consolidation and lowering costs by providing remote working.

10. What about virtual desktop costs – how do these compare to your traditional environment?

Let's take a simple case of a PC user working from the office. With desktop virtualisation computer could be replaced with a mobile device. This reduces the cost of the device itself and physical desktop maintenance. Also, often missed, this replacement leads to reduction in power consumption, both leading to substantial savings over time.

At the same time, to set up and operate a desktop virtualisation solution in the datacenter requires additional investments that lead to an initial increased per user cost; depending on the use case, the savings may cover the additional increase in cost, therefore TCO and ROI need to be evaluated on a 3-or-5 year model.

To put this into perspective, today's cost of physical desktops (including all the related desktop management, support, helpdesk and deskside support activities) may account for about $100 per user per month. The cost of computing environment may be higher than with a physical desktop by 10-20 per cent, but the business benefits from desktop virtualisation substantially outweigh the cost increase for many user groups.