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 last in 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 its environmental friendliness.
Supports one machine for home and work
Many people who use a PC regularly at work, also have one at home (in some cases more than one). This is hugely environmentally inefficient as the impact of making new equipment is substantial. The idea that an individual could use a single machine, keep their personal data and applications on it locally and use it as an access device when at work is a neat response to this device proliferation and is supported by virtual desktop technology. For example, an organisation could run a “BYO” scheme in which employees bring their Macs or other personal laptops to work, connect them to a guest network and use them to access their virtual desktop for business. The device need not even be particularly powerful, even an iPad (depending on the type of users, they may want a bluetooth keyboard) or Android device can fulfill this role. The net result is fewer end-point devices and potentially thinner end-point devices.
Enables efficient (deduplicated) storage
In a typical corporate office packed with PCs, their hard-discs are storing 80% duplicated data. Think about that for a minute, the same data is being stored over and over again on hundreds of hard-drives, just so that it is locally available to each processor on request. This is hugely inefficient and results in much more storage, in aggregate, than is actually necessary. Much of this duplication is down to the Windows image and the local applications, but some also comes from filestore as we email the same presentation out to twenty people or reply to an email chain twenty emails long (each one with another copy of the previous nineteen). With a virtual desktop configuration, all of that duplicated data is pulled together centrally and can be de-duplicated. Not only does this require a great deal less storage (which is therefore efficient) but it can be made to be very performant by keeping information that is requested regularly in memory cache or solid state storage rather than spinning disc.
Enables efficient server level virus protection
Talking to a potential client recently, they were bemoaning their virtual desktop infrastructure because it is “unable to cope” with the daily virus scan. This problem is avoidable on two fronts; first, randomize the timing of the scan so that each desktop scans at a different time of the day, rather than all kicking off at once; second (and in many ways better approach) stop scanning at the desktop level and scan at the server level. This again is much more efficient as it is effectively scanning many desktops at once “in bulk”. It uses less processing power and therefore less power, particularly when combined with the above point about reduplicated storage (because the storage only needs scanning once).
Enables efficient pooled computing
The average PC isn’t working very hard most of time, it is inherently inefficient because its processor and memory are dedicated to an individual, whose demands are very “peaky”. When I log-in in the morning and open various applications, I want all the processing power I can get, because I am naturally impatient and I want to get going. But when I am writing a blog or making a phone-call, I am using little or no processing power and my machine is largely sitting idle (meanwhile, the person across the office from me is recalculating a large spreadsheet and needs all the processing power they can get). A compromise is made at the point of specifying the machine between cost and perfromance. This is a compromise which can be much more balanced in a virtual environment where compute resource is natually pooled. When I am not using my resources, they are available to the person across the room. This means that it is possible to get better performance from less hardware, which in turn is both more efficeint from the point of view of buying and powering the kit.
Avoids the need to buy PCs for third parties
In all my conversations with potential clients about virtual desktops, this one keeps coming up as a hot-button; “I want to stop buying laptops for my third partes. It just feels wrong”. Well it is wrong, from an environmental point of view, because they already have PCs and it is a waste to be giving them new ones just so they can access your network securely. With a virtual desktop approach, third parties can access their virtual desktops from their own hardware. You will be happy avoiding the extra cost, they will be happy avoiding the need to carry two laptops and the planet will avoid the environmental cost of all that laptop manufacture.
Thin clients last longer than PCs
One of the biggest environmental impacts of an electronic device is when it needs to be replaced with a new one. We are talking raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, distribution and recycling of the old device. Thin-client devices are simpler than PCs and lacking moving parts, like fans and hard-drives, so physically last longer. Also, because the OS and apications are running in the data centre, in. virtual desktop model, the local device remains independent of even the most major upgrade, a time when many fully-functioning PCs are replaced.
Extends the life of existing PCs
As noted above, one of the biggest environmental impacts of an electronic device is when it needs to be replaced. With a virtual desktop, the hardware is abstracted from the system and application software, so that major software upgrades can be managed independently of the hardware. What this means in practice is that when you come to do your next major Windows upgrade, for example, you can keep all your old desktops (or thin clients) and access the new service virtually. The same logic applies in the data-centre, as even the virtual desktop is running on a hypervisor layer that isolates it from the servers it is running on and it is therefore reasonable to run the servers to failure as well. As long as you maintain an “n+1” configuration for redundancy and high availability, this approach need not affect the availability of your service.
Reduced Desktop power consumption
A typical thin-client uses about 10% of the power of a PC as it lacks a spinning hard-disk or a fan as well as typically running less-powerful processors. This dramatically reduces power consumption in the office and will also reduce the need for air-conditioning in most offices as PCs produce a lot of heat as they consume all that power.
More power efficient overall (including DC)
We note above that thin clients are more power efficient than PCs, but what about the extra power being used in the data centre to run the virtual service? Even when we take a rounded view and draw-in the data centre power to the comparison, you should expect to see 70% savings. This is more variable than the thin-client numbers as it is dramatically affected by the density of desktops to servers and the level of storage deduplication you are able to achieve, but assuming you have these well optimized, 70% is achievable.
Reduced need for office cooling
As noted above, thin-client devices use about 10% of the power of PCs because of their lack of moving parts (e.g. fan and hard-disk) and because of their more parsimonious processors. Much of the power consumption of a PC ends up ultimately dissipating as heat, indeed a room full of PCs has a substantial impact on the calculations for a the air-conditioning unit for that new office. Even in an existing office, the air-conditioning wil have less work to do if you replace all of the PCs with thin-clients.