Last year may be in the rearview, but it’s a year that has permanently changed the way we live and work, to say the least. Even companies that decide to return to an office aren’t likely to completely go back to pre-2020 structure and will likely have at least some employees working from home at least some of the time.
This massive shift to remote working is driving the need for IT teams and business leaders to reassess their end user computing technology to ensure maximum productivity and security. Stop-gap measures that were applied during the pandemic should be reviewed because performance problems and poor security can put the organization at risk.
CIOs have largely moved beyond the infrastructure acquisition mentality in favor of cloud solutions that offer greater flexibility. Moving desktop workloads to the cloud is one such investment that can generate significant business benefits. According to Gartner, Inc., “the DaaS market is forecast to continue growing by 253% between 2021 and 2024.“
With the popularity of DaaS solutions accelerating and IT teams exploring different approaches, it’s useful to consider how virtual desktop technology has evolved over time. We’ve come a long way from the old days of on-premises VDI, but many solutions – even DaaS offerings – are still rooted in old architectures which limit their ability to fulfill the modern requirements of a distributed organization.
An understanding of virtual desktop architectures will guide IT professionals to a fundamental decision point: Can your organization invest the resources in a “do-it-yourself” (DIY) approach, or does a software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach to virtual desktop delivery make more sense?
Distributed organizations that need to securely provision desktops for employees or contractors in multiple locations should explore the pros and cons of DIY vs. SaaS-based approaches to virtual desktops. In this eWEEK Data Points article, Michele Borovac of Workspot offers six considerations to help guide decision makers toward the best virtual desktop solution for their unique requirements.
Data Point No. 1: Simplify IT operations
With a DIY approach to on-premises VDI, IT teams must architect and procure servers, storage, networking and software for the forecasted number of users. This step is critical to get right because IT could seriously under-estimate or over-estimate the number of people who will be using the solution – a costly mistake in either instance.
From there, IT personnel and hired consultants usually spend months integrating the stack and testing the solution. It could be 9-12 months before the first virtual desktop can go live. After all that effort and expense, you end up with VDI deployed in only one data center, which has performance implications for remote users. From there, the ongoing operational complexity of on-premises or even some cloud-based virtual desktop solutions requires significant resources for testing, upgrading and patching hardware and software components.
Alternatively, SaaS cloud desktop solutions eliminate operational complexity for IT teams because the vendor owns the technology, runs the service and takes responsibility for the desktop SLA. Cloud desktops can be added or removed dynamically in minutes to respond to business dynamics.
Like any SaaS solution, you may have less control over customization than you might get with on-premises DIY infrastructure. Ask your solution provider whether they can customize the platform to integrate your authentication, security tools, and ITSM.
Data Point No. 2: Focus on business value
During the last 20 years, application software has moved away from a legacy, on-premises DIY model to a cloud-based SaaS model.
There are many examples: Microsoft Exchange gave way to Office 365 and Siebel gave way to Salesforce CRM. In cases like these, end customers that transitioned to SaaS application models can focus on deriving maximum business value from those solutions rather than being preoccupied with buying, integrating, upgrading and operating infrastructure. Today, this same transformation to a SaaS model is available for virtual desktops.
Organizations that are ready to relinquish traditional VDI and physical PCs can leave complex infrastructure management behind in favor of a strategic focus on the business value SaaS virtual desktops deliver.
Data Point No. 3: Improve reliability
With DIY virtual desktop solutions, whether on-premises or cloud-based, it can be difficult to achieve the same levels of uptime that a SaaS solution offers. Desktop workloads are mission-critical, and the cost of lost productivity associated with downtime can be 100x greater than the cost of a cloud desktop solution.
Downtime costs for highly valuable employees such as CAD engineers, architects and attorneys, whose productivity is measured in billable hours, is easy to calculate. Larger financial institutions have estimated the cost of downtime to be up to
millions of dollars per day. With SaaS cloud desktop platforms, IT organizations offload the responsibility for the desktop SLA to the vendor. When considering a SaaS approach, ask the provider about their uptime SLA and the business continuity methods they employ, then compare that to your in-house capabilities for reliability and resiliency.
Data Point No. 4: Offload complex management tasks from IT
While complex, an on-premises VDI environment is relatively static and under IT’s control. Changes such as software or hardware upgrades require planning that’s time-consuming and resource intensive. Because these upgrades can be daunting and risk creating system instability, they’re often delayed, and customers miss out on potentially useful features. At the same time, day-to-day operational management also consumes significant resources.
Unlike an on-premises environment, the public cloud exposes your IT organization to rapid infrastructure change that’s largely out of your control. Cloud services change all the time, and the public cloud environment will be automatically updated, multiple times per month.
If you’re considering a DIY cloud desktop solution, you’ll need to be ready to accommodate continual change. With a SaaS cloud desktop solution, end customers are shielded from the constant change coming from public cloud providers, and the SaaS vendor is responsible for ensuring those changes benefit your cloud desktop implementation. In this way, a SaaS approach relieves the unpredictability of public cloud technology changes that could impact your cloud desktops.
Data Point No. 5: Eliminate security vs. performance trade-offs
The Salesforce SaaS solution was designed from the beginning as a massively scalable solution for CRM – it’s based on a cloud-native architecture, which has significant implications for security and performance.
In the world of end user computing, traditional VDI solutions were usually implemented to improve security, often at the cost of app performance for remote workers. This security vs. performance tradeoff is still alive and well when it comes to both on-premises VDI and cloud-based VDI, because both are single-tenant, and neither is cloud-native. They require replication either to multiple data centers (VDI) or within multiple cloud regions (cloud-based VDI) to produce acceptable performance for end users.
To avoid the security-for-performance trade-off, IT leaders should evaluate cloud-native, SaaS cloud desktops to determine if the security, performance and horizontal scalability benefits are more suitable for their organization.
Data Point No. 6: Reallocate precious IT resources
As you consider the various virtual desktop models, there are two key questions to ask as you consider resource allocation:
- Do you have the tools, people and processes in place to manage a global implementation as well as optimize the cost of your virtual desktops?
- Do you have the resources set up to meet or exceed industry benchmarks for virtual desktop reliability, as well as deliver a level of performance to your users that enables them to be productive anywhere?
The answers to these questions will determine if your organization has an appetite for a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to virtual desktops, where your IT team is responsible for all aspects of the implementation. If the answer is no, a cloud-native, SaaS approach could be the solution that better serves your organization.
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