Businesses Look To Virtual DesktopsJohn LeMay
Technology leaders facing hardware refresh intervals for user laptops and desktops are looking to cloud-based solutions instead of hardware purchases. They realize that widespread remote work environments implemented last year due to the COVID19 pandemic may be a longer-term work model than originally anticipated. This has led them to look at virtual desktops instead of new hardware. Solutions for delivering virtual desktops, such as Desktop as a Service (DaaS) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), aren’t new, but cloud providers are continuing to improve their offerings in these spaces.
Replacing office computers when workers aren’t in the office?
Technology refresh cycles are a normal part of business operations. The average lifespan for the laptops and desktops that employers provide to their employees is roughly 3-5 years. Technology and business leaders understand that hardware needs to be replaced on a scheduled basis for various reasons. New software may require more memory or storage. Laptops carried to and from the office daily experience greater wear and tear than desktop computers that rarely move. Once the warranty coverage on a computer expires repair costs can begin to rise. After three or more years those repair costs can exceed the cost of replacement.
Faced with potential hardware upgrades during a pandemic, many technology leaders are revisiting the idea of hosting desktops in the cloud instead. The idea of virtual desktops is not new, but solutions have evolved significantly resulting in lower costs and greater benefits to the business compared to in the past. Technology teams can provide their users with a desktop environment that provides all of the applications needed, that can access all of their data, and that is securely accessible from anywhere by leveraging this virtual desktop technology.
Users working from home today are much more likely to have high-speed internet connections than they were in the past. Last year many people chose to (or needed to) upgrade their home networks and increased their internet connection speeds to support both working remotely as well as remote learning. While cloud-based desktop solutions can perform adequately over less than optimal network connections, high-speed connections to the internet offer improved performance. Higher speeds also allow technology teams to enable rich features such as voice and video that wouldn’t be possible to deliver over slower internet connections.
These same users are highly likely to have a home desktop or laptop computer available to use to access virtual desktops provided by their employer. Many times this is located in a spot that is easier to work at than where they use the laptop provided to them by their employer. Home computers today commonly are found in a home office or other dedicated space.
Improved Cybersecurity with Trusted Technology
Since in a virtual desktop model all business data is stored in the cloud and never downloaded to the computer used to access the virtual desktop, it is easier for technology teams to ensure cybersecurity controls are enforced. Also, since all applications are being run from the cloud instead of from the user’s computer, there is very low resource demand on the user’s computer. This means an older laptop or desktop is likely adequate for connecting to a cloud-based desktop and running the latest applications.
Business leaders have gained confidence in cloud computing in recent years as they have seen successful transitions of business applications and processes from traditional on-premise data centers to the cloud. This confidence level of the business helps when the technology leadership suggests looking to cloud-based desktop solutions as well.
From the backend technology perspective, vendors have significantly matured their offerings in the DaaS and VDI spaces to meet the demand of both enterprise and SMB clients. Since many of their business customers have invested in migrating large portions of their traditional data centers to the cloud, maturing the cloud-based desktop offerings made sense for these vendors.
Many of these vendors have seen rapid adoption of these offerings by clients who traditionally relied on the more traditional model of desktop or laptop computers with the various applications users required locally installed. Only a few years ago the price of implementing and supporting these solutions made them prohibitive for many organizations. Business and technology leaders are realizing the value in cloud-based virtual desktops now that the business applications and data are already there.
Both DaaS and VDI provide a method to share computer resources among several simultaneous users. Instead of a computer being used by one user at a time, a larger computer is used to serve several users simultaneously. Users are generally unaware they are sharing the computer. Each user connects to his or her session, sees only their desktop, applications, and files, and works independently of what other users on the system are doing. This ability to share compute resources between users is a key cost-saving aspect of desktop virtualization technologies for businesses.
The difference between DaaS and VDI from a business perspective generally boils down to how much of the management of the solution is transferred to the provider versus how much responsibility remains with the business’s internal technology team or their contracted technology provider. With a complete DaaS solution, the technology team typically manages the applications delivered by the solution, the data created and used by those applications, and the user connectivity to the cloud-based desktop. With a VDI solution, the technology teams are required to manage all of this plus the infrastructure and software components needed to enable the virtual desktop technology.
Traditionally VDI was deployed in the company data center and the solution was built on standard server hardware instead of using desktop computers. Software components from vendors such as Citrix, VMWare, and Microsoft provided the necessary tools to deliver multiple user sessions from the same computer. Technology teams managed the various virtual desktop computers using many of the same tools used to manage physical laptop and desktop computers as well as some additional ones specific to the virtual environment.
Today DaaS vendors are providing solutions that mimic the VDI model but require less day-to-day management by the local IT teams. DaaS vendors can provide solutions that are relatively turn-key in operation. Technology teams need only to install the applications required by their business users once and they can create as many virtual desktops as needed, all with the same applications. The DaaS system provides all of the automation needed to add or remove virtual desktops as demand changes.
If technology teams want to retain more of the day to day management of their virtual desktop environments, they can deploy many of the traditional VDI solutions on public clouds such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. Typically there is little cost-benefit to deploying a VDI model on a public cloud, so most technology leaders looking into cloud desktops are focusing on the DaaS model for delivery of their desktops.
Business and technology leaders should be keeping an eye on how virtual desktop technologies continue to evolve. The remote work model will likely continue to be with us for the foreseeable future, even if we do see a broader return to offices this year. Regardless of where employees work from, moving away from regular hardware purchases is an idea that many businesses find appealing.
Oceantec can help guide businesses in the analysis and deployment of DaaS, VDI, and other virtualization technologies through our professional services offerings. Our expertise in digital transformation can assist in delivering solutions that advance your business. We are committed to helping our clients realize business value in their IT investments.