The promise of virtual desktops was for people to have on-demand, anytime, anywhere access to their corporate apps and desktops. But traditional VDI solutions have failed to deliver the commensurate benefits for most organisations. Today we are seeing strong momentum for enterprises moving workloads to the public cloud, and with the right VDI solution, moving desktops to the cloud is a high-return IT strategy. While the Cloud VDI or Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) market is seeing explosive growth, it is important to know that there are multiple approaches to virtual desktops, and IT leaders must determine what the best deployment and management methodology is to meet their organisation’s unique needs. IT leaders should focus on three key areas:
(1) Is the solution global?
(2) Is it customisable with enterprise-class features?
(3) Is it turnkey?
I call this the G.E.T. Framework for evaluating VDI solutions. Let’s take a closer look at the questions you need virtual desktop providers to answer.
Global Infinite Regions: Can you deploy my virtual desktops within 25 milliseconds (ms) of my users globally?
The majority of legacy 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. This is the case with legacy VDI.
It is difficult and resource-intensive 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 are remote, they are subject to high latency (>100ms) and low bandwidth connections (<5 Mbps). These networks also can have high packet loss, which requires the use of expensive leased lines.
This results in a poor user experience. High latencies will always kill performance, and even though remoting protocols have been employed to optimise performance, they can’t change the laws of physics.
The public cloud offers a new approach. Rather than 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 growing, which means that every organisation using Azure now has 54 data centres. It is time to put them to use.
A globally distributed cloud such as Azure needs 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, because that’s the only way to get the performance, security, and scalability benefits that eluded traditional VDI, but which are very much possible 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 25ms of any user in the world, and that means users get incredible performance.
Enterprise Customisability: Can my existing image management tools, GPOs and security policies be integrated?
New IT solutions require training for IT admins, but that is time spent away from their high-value work, so avoiding a disruption in established processes is the way to go. IT teams should be able to manage all their virtual resources – apps, desktops and GPU workstations – using their existing tools and processes, from a single pane of glass, thereby simplifying management processes and reducing the need for retraining. 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 the goal.
Although strong authentication is a necessary security element, it is not sufficient. 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 does not enter the virtual desktop control plane. Find out whether potential solutions offer this separation.
Finally, it is no surprise that enterprise IT resources are constantly stretched, so the ability to easily integrate existing IT service management solutions, such as ServiceNow and BMC Remedy, to efficiently orchestrate desktop provisioning and resource lifecycles is yet another important requirement to add to your list.
Turnkey and On-Demand Software-as-a-Service: How long will it take to deploy and scale my Cloud VDI?
Some organisations take on legacy VDI, whether on-premises or in the cloud, as a do-it-yourself (DIY) project, requiring significant IT team member and financial resources. However, another 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, and 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 vendors what’s possible now.
Employing a turnkey, Cloud VDI service also means that the vendor 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. Ideally, your turnkey Cloud VDI service will offer flat, predictable pricing to take the worry out of cloud compute variability and avoid unpleasant billing surprises.
Finding your best option
“Fast, cheap or good – pick two” is an often-used phrase when it comes to choosing solutions. While there’s some truth to the adage that you can’t have it all, that doesn’t have to be the case when it comes to choosing the best VDI solution for your needs. By understanding the best criteria to evaluate a solution, you can find the right fit for your organisation’s unique needs without having to make sacrifices.
Amitabh Sinha, CEO and co-founder, Workspot
Image source: Shutterstock/bluebay