Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is, as the name suggests, a virtualisation technology that creates individual, fully personalised desktop virtual machines with user profile control. It has been in existence since 2006, and while it has experienced some variation in popularity, in recent times, it has seen considerable growth. This is reflected in market research, which estimates that the global VDI market will be worth around $5 billion by 2022.
In its early days, the VDI concept was appealing to IT strategists on many levels. By virtualising desktops, not only could businesses reduce hardware costs, but they could also break the costly three-year refresh cycle, simplify desktop management and save IT teams valuable administrative and support time.
But, there was a downside. 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.
But more recently, the emergence of edge computing in combination with hyperconverged infrastructure has disrupted existing VDI technologies. But, what makes these technologies so well suited?
Reducing the admin burden while improving services
At the heart of the approach 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.
That implementations simplicity is evident as soon as the virtual desktops have been 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.
Some edge computing solutions also allow IT teams to take centralised management and administration functionality a stage further and integrate automated disaster recovery capabilities such as replication, snapshot scheduling and file-level recovery. 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 datacentre.
In the event of a failure at a network access point or terminal, the user can immediately move to a different machine and log back in, and in most cases, 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.
Security and agility at the edge
A VDI deployment running on a hyperconverged edge computing solution enables users to log-on securely to any machine on the network and gain access to their files, emails and applications. They aren’t limited to PC terminals, they load their personal desktop or applications on their mobile phone or tablet, significantly boosting workforce agility.
Regardless of their location, IT teams can monitor user profiles and receive automated alerts that can help identify potentially suspicious activity or log users out if their account has been inactive for a certain amount of time. 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. 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 advent of hyperconverged edge computing, and the accompanying reductions in cost and complexity, have enabled businesses of all sizes to benefit from the technology. Additional functionality, improvements in performance, and the huge benefits provided by simplification of system management have made it equally easy for end users and IT teams to adopt VDI. As the edge computing market continues to flourish, VDI is on course for even more growth in the years ahead.
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