Over the last few years, organisations have been looking at virtual desktop solutions with renewed enthusiasm to enable more flexible workforces. In early 2020, COVID-19 forced organisations to get serious about their approach in this area. At-scale home working is the new normal and, regardless of how organisations have chosen to manage this, Desktop as a Service (DaaS) will feature more prominently in business continuity conversations than ever before.

In this blog, we look at three popular virtual desktop solutions: AWS Workspaces, Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) and our own Desktop as a Service platform. We deploy and manage all three of these solutions, in fact, we’re completely vendor-agnostic, which enables us to propose the best solution for every use case.

All three of the solutions in this blog have their benefits and use cases, so we’re discussing the scenarios in which each of them are best utilised. We’ll start off by looking at AWS Workspaces and Azure (WVD), which are both public cloud solutions.

VDI in the Public Cloud

AWS Workspaces can be provisioned as either Linux or Windows desktops on a wide variety of virtual hardware and storage configurations. If deploying Windows on AWS, companies can use their existing Windows 10 Desktop licenses or pay for them as part of the subscription.

Windows Virtual Desktop can be provisioned as Windows 7 or Windows 10 virtual machines running Office 365 Professional with a range of third-party applications. While official support for Windows 7 ended earlier in 2020, companies can still host Windows 7 VMs for three years without paying for Extended Support, which works out at $25 a machine and increases every year.

Both AWS Workspaces and Microsoft WVD are available for deployment in regions around the globe. The massive global footprint of these companies will enable you to service most end-users around the world. This is a huge benefit for global organisations looking to scale virtual desktops, as the risk of latency can be reduced with little effort. It is worth checking where your end users are located in relation to the Amazon or Azure data centre, however. While it’s not always an issue, being on the edge of a zone can lead to latency issues.

Choosing Your Public Cloud Provider

If your organisation already has a preference for AWS or Azure and you primarily run your workloads on one platform, then it makes sense to use that platform for your VDI deployment. However, more and more companies are taking on a multi-cloud approach, matching a workload with the most suitable platform. If this is the case, consider where the applications your desktops need to access are hosted.

If you have an experienced team, or outsourced cloud provider, Workspaces and WVD can be deployed quickly. If you’re unsure if you have the skills to deliver this, [link]get in touch to see how we can support you. The virtual desktop has come a long way in recent years and, once your environment and templates are configured, rolling out new desktops is very fast and straightforward. If an organisation is already comfortable with the public cloud, the nature of having live infrastructure on the public cloud means the cost of adding virtual desktops will be incremental. If it’s a fresh deployment, then there are additional considerations to factor in. If you don’t have a well-rounded knowledge of the public cloud internally, and the cloud is an aspiration for your organisation, there are some things to be aware of before you jump in.

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1) Public Cloud Skills

While spinning up a new desktop is easy, a VDI solution on the public cloud still requires underlying infrastructure and integration components to work. You must design and build this infrastructure before you can begin deploying desktops, which requires a diverse technical skillset. From architecture to networking to security, you are responsible for everything you build in the public cloud. Unfortunately, you can’t get fast, hands-on support from Azure or AWS if something goes wrong or you have a query. It will be up to you to troubleshoot your services.

2) Hidden Costs

Secondly, each of the elements you add to your virtual infrastructure, from domain controllers to VMs, come with their own associated costs which are separate from the price per desktop. It’s important you understand what the monthly infrastructure costs look like and not just your desktops so you don’t get any nasty surprises down the line. The actual cost will be higher than the advertised per-user amount.

In relation to this, you need to explore the cost of data transit. VDI solutions are unique in that the desktop is constantly sending and receiving lots of data, making the pattern of usage and cost unpredictable. While data ingress is free on the public cloud, egress fees can mount up if you have a large number of desktops.

3) Management

Once the new virtual desktop service is up and running, it will need to be managed. As is the case with all virtual desktop solutions, any degradation or outages hinder organisational productivity, so management and troubleshooting are super important. You need to ensure you’ve got enough people internally to proactively manage the platform without it being a burden for an individual or team. You may have the skills to build the solution but might then want to offload support and maintenance to a provider, who are committed to an SLA to deliver around the clock support and maintenance.

If an organisation is already comfortable with the public cloud, all of the above will be taken care of and the costs will be incremental. If it’s a fresh deployment, then the infrastructure costs, management and potential skills gap all need to be carefully considered.

4) Security and Compliance

Moving end-user computing to the cloud require organisations to consider a new set of security and compliance considerations. For example, if you are required to maintain data sovereignty, this needs to be considered so that all company data remains in the country of origin. If you have specific compliance requirements, you may want to get the input of cloud experts to help you choose a solution or look at cloud solutions outside of the public cloud to ensure compliance.

Private and Dedicated VDI solutions

There are a range of reasons why a private cloud VDI solution might be preferred over the public cloud, from custom/ non-standard requirements to regulatory requirements to organisational preference. Public cloud might be the end goal, however, if it’s a year or two away, then other solutions need to be considered. In this case, there are two options.

Firstly, a private cloud VDI solution, which gives you greater oversight of your data and where it’s held. It’s ideal if you know you will want or need to customise your solution, or you don’t have the internal resource to manage the infrastructure yourself.

In the case of our Desktop as a Service platform, we ensure data residency within the UK, utilising highly compliant Tier 3 data centres, which satisfies our clients in the financial services industry. We offer a range of VDI solutions – from VMware to HiveIO – which we can advise upon based on the requirements. For example, if speed to market is paramount for your project, we might advise a solution based on HiveIO, which is hardware-agnostic and ideal for fast deployments. For an organisation looking to migrate their on-premise VDI into the cloud, we might look at VMware. Again, we’re vendor-agnostic and it’s our job to find the right fit and make it work hard for your business.

Option two, which is suitable for organisations who are yet to move to the cloud, need super-low latency desktop experiences or very strict compliance requirements, is a dedicated VDI solution built on our Converged Cloud Stack appliance.

The benefit here is that organisations deliver an on-premise VDI solution that’s backed up and replicated to Cloudhelix data centres. Once on the ground, it’s remotely managed by our Edinburgh-based Network Operations Centre (NOC). This is great for organisations yet to move to the cloud, delivering a temporary solution to virtualise desktops while you focus on bigger and longer-term digital transformation objectives.

There are so many combinations of platform and software for VDI, and with remote working becoming the new normal in 2020, there are additional considerations outside of what’s mentioned in this post. In our latest whitepaper, we look at the IT challenges that are prevalent in a post-lockdown world. We’ve adapted to the short term challenges presented by lockdown, no we must adapt for good. To learn more, download your free copy of the whitepaper here.

When it comes to VDI, the good news is that there’s a solution for every use case. If you need help identifying the right solution for your business, get in touch with us today for a free, impartial chat.

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Posted in Business on Jun 24, 2020