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VDI: Support at the edge

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Johan Pellicaan, VP & managing director EMEA at Scale Computing explores how VDI’s could help businesses maintain continuity, agility and security at the edge.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our usual way of life, with most employees in the UK forced to work from home, businesses are having to rethink IT operations in order to adapt to the new normal.

Technologies like VDI are experiencing a massive spike in demand as a result of this, as they enable end-users to work from home with all the tools they are used to using in the office.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which has existed since 2006, is a virtualisation technology that creates individual, personalised desktop virtual machines with user profile control.

Despite variation in its popularity, it has grown considerably recently: market research estimates that the global VDI market will be worth around $5 billion by 2022.

In its early days, virtualising desktops allowed businesses to not only reduce hardware costs, but further break the costly three-year refresh cycle, simplify desktop management, and save IT teams valuable administrative and support time.

There was a downside, however. Early VDI technologies were accompanied by a complex and expensive backend infrastructure. Similarly, investing in VDI software brought with it significant licensing fees and vendor hardware lock-in that increased the cost of implementation.

These issues became common barriers to adoption of VDI in the enterprise market. That said, more recently, the emergence of edge computing in combination with hyperconverged infrastructure has disrupted existing VDI technologies. So, what makes these technologies so well suited?

Streamlining both admin and service

The core factor is simplicity. Rolling out a hyperconverged edge computing solution is practical for hundreds of users, even when they are supported by small IT teams. That’s because, in general, it’s a technology that doesn’t require specialist knowledge, other than a few hours of training.

Just how simple the implementation is becomes evident as soon as the virtual desktops are rolled out. For instance, software and anti-virus updates can be remotely managed and maintained for each user.

And, by centralising and automating other day-to-day tasks, the technology enables IT teams to focus on other issues, such as strategic planning or dealing with unexpected emergencies.

IT teams are also capable of expanding centralised management and administration functionality a stage further with some edge computing solutions. This is done by integrating an automated disaster recovery capability, such as replication, file-level recovery and snapshot scheduling.

By having this kind of consistent disaster recovery plan running in the background, IT teams don’t need to rely on employees to update their own antivirus software or manage their own data backups. Looking more strategically, full network backups and snapshots of individual desktop profiles can be sent over wider networks to a cloud repository or remote data centre.

The user can immediately move to a different machine and re-login in the event of a failure at a network access point or terminal. And in most cases, they will be able to continue from where they left off. This plays to the objective of just about every IT team, which is to deliver highly available IT infrastructure.

Agility and security at the edge

Users are able to log-on securely to any machine on the network by using a VDI deployment running on a hyperconverged edge computing solution. 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 mobile phone or tablet, significantly boosting workforce agility.

IT teams can remotely monitor user profiles, regardless of location, 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.

In many organisations, the security and admin challenges associated with managing BYODs are considerable.

For 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.

This is particularly poignant at the moment, as we live through a nationwide work-from-home policy. The arrival of hyperconverged edge computing has enabled businesses of varying sizes to reap the benefits of reductions in cost and complexity the technology brings.

It is remarkably easy for both end-users and IT teams to adopt VDI thanks to additional functionality, improvements in performance and vastly simplified management.

The combination of all of these technologies is aiding companies across multiple sectors to navigate these current tumultuous challenges and maintain business continuity.

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