As more and more businesses realise the key benefits that virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) offers, the market for these solutions has seen relatively steady growth. More recently, this growth is being driven by the sudden need for optimized remote workforces, caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. In fact, a recent Gartner survey found that 74% of CFOs questioned intend to shift some employees to remote work permanently after the crisis.

About the author

Johan Pellicaan, Vice President and Managing Director EMEA at Scale Computing.

With its capabilities to streamline the management, deployment, and maintenance of endpoints, VDI demonstrated great promise when it first hit the market. It also provided the ability to reduce hardware spend and cut the three-year refresh cycle, which made it a great choice from a technological standpoint. VDI also had many experience focused benefits, making it a viable choice for end-users. These included the fact that the end-user could now obtain the same desktop experience from anywhere (regardless of hardware device), as well as increased backup, security and greater productivity rates.

There were, however, a few downsides to VDI. One of these was its large licensing fees, which was due to the bulky, complicated, and costly backend IT infrastructure it required. VDI also required lock-in to vendor hardware, which, added with the licensing fees, drove up acquisition prices. Consequently, VDI was not adopted in large enterprises at the rate predicted. 

However, more recently, the combination of hyperconverged infrastructure and the emergence of edge computing has shaken up existing VDI technologies to make them far better suited. So, what is it about these technologies that makes them a great formula?

Introducing HCI and edge

Not too long ago it seemed that VDI had run its course, but the arrival of edge computing and hyperconverged infrastructures (HCI) turned that around. These innovations made deploying VDI easy and practical, eliminating the need for highly specialized skills and allowing for tasks such as software and anti-virus updates for each user to be managed and maintained remotely. Rolling out a hyperconverged edge computing solution is practical for hundreds of users, even when they are supported by small IT teams. It’s a technology that doesn’t require specialist knowledge, other than a few hours of training. 

Thanks to the centralization of mundane tasks, IT teams had more time and were better equipped to handle crises. The addition of edge computing systems meant that integrated and automated disaster recovery (DR) capabilities became available, and replication, snapshot scheduling, and file-level recovery could easily be implemented to help with data recovery. 

These innovations have brought a long list of benefits to their end-users, including: easy log-in between different machines; the ability to secure data on the edge of the network; easy recoverability; rapid configuration of a substitute machine; higher availability; and reduced downtime risks. Due to the fact that the machines used store and process data at the point of creation, edge computing also eliminated latency and bottleneck issues.

Keeping security top of mind

With a VDI deployment running on a hyperconverged edge computing solution, users are able to log-on securely to any machine on the network. They can then access their emails, files and applications as usual. They aren’t limited to PC terminals, they load their personal desktop or applications on their smart phone or tablet, significantly boosting workforce agility. 

Regardless of location, IT teams can remotely monitor user profiles, and receive automated alerts which help to identify potentially suspicious activity or log inactive users out. A VDI deployment can also offer a cost-effective and secure method to extend network access beyond the office walls to provide remote access to employees wherever they are located. 

For a large percentage of businesses, the security and admin challenges associated with managing BYODs are considerable. In many organisations, managing BYODs has considerable security and admin challenges. However, by integrating BYODs onto an officially sanctioned VDI environment, employee mobiles and tablets can be more effectively protected from potential security risks, so information is better secured from accidental disclosure and loss.

The full potential of VDI

With the help of edge innovation, VDI is now readily available to many businesses, being affordable to deploy, as well as offers the ability to improve workforce agility. It offers a cost-effective and secure method to extend network access beyond the office building. While the initial flaws of VDI (such as high-cost, complicated software licensing and weak network connections) once made the exciting solution seem like nothing more than a pipe-dream, the introduction of edge computing and HCI have allowed for companies to truly benefit from it. 

As we continue to see growing numbers of businesses employing or transforming their normally office-based employees into remote workers, the popularity of VDI is growing in tandem. In fact, the VDI industry is now predicted to grow from a position of $7.08 billion in 2016 to $13.45 billion by 2022. With the prospect of permanent remote working on the horizon for some, it will be interesting to discover what the future holds for this booming technology in this respect.

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