Molten Technologies believes that Desktop as a Service (DaaS) based on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology can, when done right and wrapped in the right commercial and service model, provide a different and better approach to corporate desktops.
We think VDI and DaaS should be:
We recognise that VDI might only be the right answer for a proportion of your staff and that “One size does not fit all” (see our previous DaaSler article), but it can add a great deal of value where it fits.
In this first of a series of four articles, we will pick-out some high-points of what we think customers of a good VDI or DaaS service should expect in terms of Agility.
Temporary capacity for projects/mergers
Do you have a project starting up with fifty or more third parties and are wondering how to give them secure access certain parts of your corporate network? Providing them with a virtual desktop can be done much more quickly and cost-effectively than buying them all a laptop. Or, have you recently bought another organisation and need to get them onto your IT as fast as possible, even from their existing office and network?
A good DaaS provider can provide short-term arrangements, either hosted or in your data centre, fast and securely with minimum hassle and cost to you.
Virtual desktops should be accessible from almost any connected device securely over the internet from any connected location (this isn’t true of every single technology, but it is rapidly getting there). Your people could work from home, a hotel or seamlessly from an alternative office. Their virtual desktop is device independent, so wherever they log-in from, they get the full desktop experience as if they were using a local PC, but without being tied-down.
Speed to value
A DaaS provider will have a service up and running already, which should give you a fast-track to a proven design and possibly even spare capacity already built. This will enable you to get going very rapidly. Even if you want to host your VDI service in your own data centre, using a proven architecture and build process will get you to results in record time and at very low risk.
Access from anywhere on any device
Virtual desktops should be accessible from almost any connected device securely over the internet from any connected location (this isn’t true of every single technology, but it is rapidly getting there). Supported devices include PCs, MacBooks, netbooks, thin clients, iPads and other tablets, iPhones and Android devices. The service requires a connection, but will operate well over 3G or WiFi and uses less bandwidth than a locally installed application. Your local machine is operating as a remote control for a distant PC and data is not downloaded over your connection, improving speed and security.
Upgrade software quickly at low risk
Because the virtual PC is hosted in a data centre rather than on a local device, it is always connected and is device independent. Therefore, even major upgrades can be done overnight without impact to the local hardware (e.g. thin client or BYO PC). If you are considering a Windows 7 upgrade, for example, you can provide your staff with a virtual desktop running the new operating system and they can initially access it from their existing hardware. You can then swap-out the hardware at your convenience or when it fails. In the meantime, they have a fall-back mechanism because their old PC remains active on their desk.
Support BYO PCs securely
The concept of bring your own (BYO) computing has been around for a while. There is always a challenge around securely supporting the corporate applications and networks on an unknown or wide variety of devices. A virtual desktop is ideal for this model, because the end-point-device does not need to be on a trusted network, it can access the virtual desktop securely over the Internet. Essentially, it is operating as a remote control for a PC in a secure data centre, rather than having direct access. This makes it relatively easy to lock down the connection and keep viruses out and data in.
Capex/Opex flexibility (buy or rent)
Look for a flexible financial model allowing you to either buy the hardware and licenses required to build a service, so that the asset belongs to you and you can write it off over a period (this is typically the model used for deployments in a client’s own data centre). Under this model, your DaaS provider should still be able to run the service for you and sign up to an SLA. They might also offer a model in which you effectively rent capacity within their data centres (look for full network segregation and retaining control over security through your AD and firewall rules).
Flexibly hosting in your DC or theirs (or mix)
Look for a flexible hosting model allowing the virtual desktop infrastructure to be hosted in your provider’s data centres or your own. Clients choosing to host in their own DCs typically do so for the performance and connectivity advantages of having the virtual desktops running physically close to the applications that they are accessing (this typically provides an improvement on where they are today as physical PCs are rarely located in the data centre). Clients choosing to host in a service provider’s locations do so for the freedom to flex both volume and processing power up and down to suit their business needs (as the service provider can re-use extra capacity for other clients). Some clients even choose a mix such as 80% in their own DC and 20% in the provider’s DC as a swing capacity that they may call on if they need it. Some also offer a disaster recovery capacity in their data centres, so that if our clients experience a data centre level failure, they have the peace of mind of knowing that they can still get their virtual machines up and running quickly.
Flex up or down to suit your business
Particularly when hosting in a DaaS provider’s data centres, you should look for tremendous flexibility because they can re-use unwanted capacity for other clients. In a virtual world, compute power flexibility can present itself as either “a number of desktops” or as “the processing power, memory and storage associated with each desktop”. Both are flexible, so you can increase or decrease your number of staff safe in the knowledge that your desktop capability and costs will scale smoothly. In addition, your DaaS provider might even monitor the actual usage of your various staff-groups to determine whether the individuals need more power and performance or whether there is over-capacity in the system, thus giving you the ability to dynamically control their performance experience (e.g. business is slow, save some money; sales team struggling to cope with demand, improve response times and thus their throughput).
Open or close offices quickly
With a virtual desktop solution, the office networking and local devices are as simple and generic as possible; almost anything that is there will do. If you are starting from scratch, the technically simplest Internet connection (although perhaps two of them for resilience) and thin-client solution will do. It is cheap, fast and non-specialist. Regional offices and come and go quickly and cheaply without drama or excessive cost and delay.