Despite Yahoo’s Ban on Remote Workers The Trend IS BYOD

When most of us picture a “remote worker” or someone who works from home for a larger company we think of a desktop with maybe some access to company applications and files. After all, the use of “virtual desktops” itself isn’t that new. It is, however, advancing rapidly as a result of both advancing technology and the access to faster Internet connections.

The bane of remote workers was once that access speeds were so low that it was best to use a “thick client” and offer only minimum applications. For most it was to interact with company email and have access to company and personal work files. Now most users enjoy Internet speeds are significantly faster and, more importantly, mobile. Mobile is something that provides yet another wrinkle to serving the remote user.

Global online tech publication The Register’s Chris Mellor is fairly certain that the improvements in technology spell the “death of the business PC”. His belief is grounded in a handful of new technologies and offerings, a dash of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the “pricey and complex to manage business desktops”.

The technologies he cites as cornerstones for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) eventually killing the desktop are:

  • EMC’s XtremIO all-flash array, twinned with VMware View or Citrix Xen Desktop and backend VNX arrays, can support 7,000 or more virtual desktops
  • All-flash SolidFire arrays can support large-scale, 1,000+ VDI roll-outs
  • Atlantis and all-flash Violin arrays can support 1000s of virtual desktops
  • Hybrid flash/disk array startup Tintri can support 1,000s of virtual desktops
  • Startup Pivot3 supports VDI
  • There is a VDI-focused Vblock from VCE

Some companies have been utilizing forms of virtualization for years, generally with “fat clients” for end users, but increasingly they are seeing value in migrating to newer technologies.

Anthony Smith, describes his companies migration, “The move from in-house to hosted infrastructure is a formidable challenge. Running your server estate on someone else’s kit, in their data center, makes every user a remote user, and for us, some kind of virtual desktop technology seemed an obvious choice. We spent a large amount of time investigating various VDI and session-based solutions, considering all aspects from the “user experience” through to technical and commercial considerations.

In the end, the choice of desktop technology depends heavily on the specific use case and application stack you need to deliver. For us, Citrix XenApp 6.5 on Server 2008 R2 was a better fit than VDI, for the following reasons:

  • Less resource intensive than VDI, because there’s only one copy of the OS for multiple users, greater densities of concurrent users are achieved and storage requirements are reduced.
  • Efficiency – the mature ICA/HDX protocol delivers low bandwidth consumption with a rich user experience.
  • Flexibility – both XenApp and RDS enable individual applications as well as full desktops to be published.
  • Simplified management compared to VDI.
  • Familiarity – an update of skills rather than a complete new learning curve was required.
  • Scalability – running XenApp servers on VMware enables servers to be scaled out easily.
  • Less complex to deliver and lower TCO than VDI.”

Smith also emphasized the importance of a well rounded team. He says, “Development of the new platform involved bringing together a project team that included our in-house team, specialists from the hosting provider, and external engineers with Citrix skills. In addition to putting together the right tech team, the success of any sizable IT project depends on getting users to buy in and take ownership, therefore we engaged with users from all areas of the business at an early stage in the process.”

There are multiple options for finding the kind of expertise you need for moving to a virtualized system but many companies are not equipped to do it on their own. For those organizations outsourcing some or all of the planning, development, deployment, and operation of a new VDI system. Many outsourcing firms have locally based project managers to ensure that projects meet the client’s expectations and offshore development resources to aid in keeping costs down.

As more companies use technology to improve their competitiveness it will be important for even small to mid-sized firms consider whether or not VDI will save them money and improve their “bottom line”.