Despite the challenges that organizations who are deploying VDI face, the opportunity for increasing end-user productivity and satisfaction is tremendous. It’s no secret that many IT organizations are seen as a barrier to productivity and success rather than as enablers; a successful VDI implementation can go a long way towards flipping that sentiment to something more positive.
In a recent survey conducted by ActualTech Media, 55% of respondents who are planning a VDI deployment said that they’re doing it because “We want to provide our users with improved access to their applications and workloads.” Additionally, 44% of those same respondents indicated that “We want to use VDI to solve our desktop/laptop lifecycle problem”. In keeping with the theme of “improving access” from the top survey response, consider the following ways that a VDI deployment might change the game for your workforce.
When a user’s desktop computer at the office is set up in just the right way to help them get their job done and they would like to work from home for the day, they’re out of luck. With an externally accessible VDI deployment, a user can access a virtual desktop from anywhere on almost any device and have access to all their applications, just like they’re used to.
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This model changes the game entirely because suddenly personal laptops, smartphones and tablets, and even a kiosk at the library can all become an endpoint for a user to access exactly the desktop and applications they need to do their job. VDI unchains a user from their cubicle and allows them to work from Thailand if they need to; they’ll have almost exactly the same experience they would at their desk at the home base.
In the DevOps classic The Phoenix Project, the protagonist Bill showcases the agony of working for a few weeks with a years-old loaner laptop that is so slow it cripples his productivity. The reality is that in a standard enterprise deployment of desktop and laptop computers, if your company-issued device breaks down, you can wait weeks for a replacement or repair. And all the while, the ability to do your job is impaired. What’s even worse is that if the device is unrecoverable and critical data was stored on the device, you may lose completed work or records of important communications.
In a post-VDI world, this sort of issue doesn’t exist. The endpoint can be as simple as a Chromebook or a tablet. If the old device suffers damage or loss, either a new one can be issued, or the user can swing over to the local computer store and pick up a new one. Within a few hours, the user can reconnect to the same virtual desktop they’ve been using and they’re on the road to productivity once again.
The shared resources in a VDI environment enable a unique economic model that can lead to better performance for everyone. For example, users might have access to an all-flash storage array in the data center, where the budget would not allow all users’ laptops and desktops to be upgraded to SSDs. As a result of all I/O being served by the all-flash array, the storage performance of each user’s system is improved and the overall experience is better.
Another potential performance benefit is best explained as “data locality.” In an enterprise laptop and desktop computing environment, users frequently access files on network shares. Depending on geography, network performance, and the data being accessed, the user experience of accessing those network shares can very. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes the experience isn’t very good.
On the other hand, virtual desktops are often physically mere feet away from the servers hosting the file shares. Consider the example of the employee working from Thailand. With a standard laptop deployment, that user would likely connect a VPN client to the corporate network and transfer the file in question – literally – across the world before accessing it. If the application in question is CAD software like a tool from Autodesk, it may be nearly impossible for that user to get work done.
In a VDI deployment, however, the visual representation of the desktop is transmitted to the user and all file access happens locally to the data center. Avoiding large file transfers across the corporate network and the Internet provides a markedly superior experience.
Finally, because a VDI deployment causes standardization within the IT organization and some uniformity across desktops, troubleshooting and issue resolution for helpdesk staff becomes easier. As a result, issues are resolved more quickly and users are back to work sooner.
When you combine the potential impact of these three (plus a bonus) benefits, it becomes clear that VDI has significant potential to positively impact the productivity and happiness of end-users. To learn more about VDI and end-user computing, it’s worth visiting the related portions of the websites of VMware and Citrix – two of the market leaders in VDI.
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