Enterprises have invested substantial time, effort and money trying to solve the myriad issues with providing end user compute resources. For example, provisioning physical desktops and laptops often takes weeks in a distributed organisation – which is time wasted for IT and a productivity drain for employees and contractors. Beyond that, the difficulty and cost of managing and, most importantly, securing these corporate-owned PCs is an ongoing challenge that can have serious consequences for the business when efforts to consistently apply security patches fall short. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies just exacerbate complexity and security concerns. At this point there’s little doubt among enterprise CIOs that this approach is not going to take their organisations into the future. What they seek is a comprehensive solution that gives global enterprises a secure, easy-to-manage, custom desktop that actually meets business and users’ needs – the “Perfect PC™”.
The ongoing quest to manage Microsoft Windows
As businesses have searched for the Perfect PC to meet both end user and IT requirements, three primary strategies have evolved: Managing Microsoft® Windows®, centralising Windows or eliminating Windows altogether.
- Tools to manage Windows
To help control and distribute patches to the hundreds of millions of enterprise PCs, many technologies and tools have emerged. Microsoft System Centre Configuration Manager and similar tools were introduced, but even with these sophisticated tools, provisioning and managing large numbers of distributed physical PCs hasn’t gotten much easier or less resource-intensive. This has inspired hardware vendors, concerned about decreasing revenue from PC hardware, to offer their customers PC-as-a-Service plans that take over the management burden for a fee. Managed Service Providers can also play a role here.
- VDI to centralise Windows
Providers introduced the first wave of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in an attempt to make endpoint management easier while also deploying Windows with the highest levels of security in on-premises data centres. Theoretically, VDI meant Windows could be patched centrally, while end users could securely access corporate resources using a variety of devices – whether personal or corporate-owned. Additionally, IT teams could reduce the cost and complexity associated with three-to-four-year endpoint replacement cycles. So great was the promise that in 2011, some industry analysts forecast that 150 million users would turn to VDI – 25 per cent of all business users.
History has demonstrated otherwise. VDI became notorious for its complexity and the associated costs for deploying, managing and troubleshooting virtual desktops. Worse, end users were often furious about performance, or they just acquiesced to being less productive. While enterprises did realise security benefits, the promises of simplicity and business agility could not be achieved because of VDI’s architectural foundations. Consequently, more than a decade after its debut, VDI has only been deployed to 30 million users – falling far short of that 2011 forecast.
Even so, VDI remains the number one workload for the data center today. VDI drives nearly $30 billion in annual spending across software, storage, servers, networking and consulting services, so it’s clear that demand for the right solution exists, and the quest to find it continues.
The emergence of the public cloud is changing everything about IT. One of the most significant developments that is returning high-value results to enterprises is the ability to deliver virtual desktops from the public cloud to end user devices around the globe. This massive shift was described by Gartner analyst Michael Warrilow recently, who predicts that “Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) revenue will overtake the server-based computing (SBC) and VDI market segments by 20211.”
- 3. Chromebooks instead of Windows
Google’s Chromebook offers an interesting alternative as a thin laptop that only enables access to web applications. There’s a lot for IT teams to love about the Chromebook. There’s no patching and there’s limited security risk. Low acquisition and management costs make them even more attractive.
Consequently, Chromebooks have more than 70 per cent of the market share in the K-12 education market, where budgets are a continual concern. Widespread adoption in other industries hasn’t been as robust because consumers and enterprises can’t access popular Windows applications and games. To achieve this, the customer must implement VDI, which then more or less contradicts the cost and complexity reductions that drew them to Chromebooks in the first place.
Neverthless, generations of young people have grown up on Chromebooks, and this is having an impact on their expectations as they enter the workforce. Partly because of their exposure to Chromebooks in school, Millennials and Gen Z expect a simple, always-connected, modern web apps experience. As a result, Chromebooks, along with the 2.5 billion Android devices out in the world, will continue to be powerful change agents in the quest for the perfect PC.
The ideal PC for enterprises
With Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) going mainstream, there are untold possibilities for reimagining data centre and IT strategy. Chief information officers (CIOs) and senior IT leaders are turning to a cloud-first mandate to drive their organisations to new levels of flexibility and agility needed to stay successful in an increasingly dynamic and competitive market.
The Perfect PC will be specific to each organisation, but the essential elements are the same: a globally available public cloud, a solution for provisioning and managing virtual desktops in any region of the public cloud on-demand, and a secure, low-cost endpoint. Software-as-a-Service providers have stepped in, with some delivering desktops on the public cloud as a turnkey service, reducing complexity and freeing valuable IT people from “keeping the lights on” tasks such as refreshing hardware and micro-managing VDI stacks. With a turnkey cloud desktop solution in place, IT teams are free to work on projects that are more strategic to business growth. Overall, organisations experience multiple business advantages:
- Unprecedented agility: New users can be onboarded in any part of the world in minutes to meet the needs of the business.
- Fortified security: Strengthen security and address compliance requirements more easily by taking advantage of modern cloud desktop architectures and the massive investments in security by the major public cloud providers.
- Endless scalability: Unleash new business opportunities via a powerful framework for collaboration and the ability to support use cases previously impossible with VDI.
Today IT leaders can address all their enterprise use cases with cloud desktops that are tailored to each end user’s requirements. On-demand provisioning and easy, global scalability are nothing short of transformational as they bring new opportunities for accelerated growth. Platform flexibility that accommodates new technology as it emerges ensures that IT investments are protected into the future. Together, these capabilities define the Perfect PC, ready for enterprises today and tomorrow.
Amitabh Sinha, co-founder and CEO, Workspot