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Why use virtual desktops?

Simon Ratcliffe

Simon Ratcliffe
Principal Consultant, Advisory

Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI) are not new.  They have been in widespread use since the last millennium but, in fairness, although the use has been widespread, the use cases have often been quite narrow.  They have been deployed for remote access for users, to allow the delivery of specific applications, to ensure secure data never leaves a data centre.  Some organizations have gone ‘all in VDI’ and have operated in this way for years, although most will also admit that there are many ‘exceptions to the rule’.

It is these exceptions that have often prevented the widespread adoption of a VDI solution.  The benefits are multiple and manifest and have been for twenty years or more, but it is the technical limitations that have constrained adoption more than anything else.  Graphics were tricky on earlier VDI solutions, video still is difficult and audio yet more challenging.  In a world where we are increasingly remote from our colleagues and using video conferencing extensively, this has proved a huge challenge and yet the great advantage of VDI is that it connects us from our remote locations to our core systems as if we were in the office and allows us to do it from whatever device we choose.

Over time we have all adopted more cloud-based solutions.  We use them on a personal basis, and we use them at work.  As this adoption expands, so has our preference for using multiple devices which is enabled by the fact that our application is abstracted from the device and so can be accessed from anywhere, at any time on any device.  We are starting to expect this flexibility from our technology and so it is perhaps natural that this expectation is now turning towards the last bastion of traditional technology, the desktop.

We have become a more cloud-centric society

As we have become a more cloud-centric society, the other change we see is the broader availability of faster internet connections.  It is far from perfect but we now have fast internet hotspots all over the place, in coffee shops, railway stations, airports, trains and where we don’t have these hotspots to hand, we will soon have 5G in many place too so all we will need to access a desktop will be our mobile phone.

One of the arguments for local desktops has often been that individual devices can continue to work when there are network issues or problems with the data centre.  They spread risk.  To a point that is true, but with modern data and application architectures, having that independence from the centre as a mitigation against failure isn’t that helpful when many applications are unavailable in the event of, for example, a network problem.  In fact, assessing whether there is any viable mitigation in that instant should be a regular exercise organizations undertake.

Is now the time for a re-assessment of the VDI debate?  If we view the general shift toward on-line, cloud-based applications, the wider and more reliable availability of internet connectivity and the simple fact that many people will be working remotely from their offices for at least part of the time in the future, then the simple answer is yes.

Pandemic related supply chain and manufacturing problems mean that personal computing devices are becoming more expensive and simply being able to provision users or support them when they work remotely is challenging.  However, and this is a critical consideration, we need to be able to deliver an exceptional experience to users to the extent they feel as if they are working locally with no latency, no lagging responses and in an environment that is familiar.

Enter Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)

Since its general release toward the end of 2019, AVD (formerly known as WVD) has become an increasingly popular choice for organizations looking for a VDI solution.  Being a Microsoft solution, AVD is optimised to deliver a Windows 10 environment through Azure and to integrate completely with Microsoft 365 which is already the collaboration and productivity platform of choice for many organisations.  It offers native support for Microsoft Teams so it delivers comprehensive and reliable collaboration and because it is Azure based, it is available across 60 regions globally meaning that you can deliver virtual desktops ‘locally’, so latency is rarely a problem.

AVD is also a very secure solution, which is critical as workforces have become, and look set to remain, increasingly remote.  AVD is built upon Azure security and integrates with all of the protection designed into Microsoft 365 and is highly configurable through tools like Azure Security Centre and Microsoft Endpoint Manager.  Microsoft manages the AVD environment and keeps it always up to date with security always being front of mind.

From a cost perspective, VDI solutions have often been relatively expensive as server farms replace end user devices and license costs for the VDI element have to be layered onto the operating system licenses.  AVD, because it originates and operates within the Microsoft eco-system can be accessed through existing Windows and Microsoft 365 eligible licenses as a free service.  Effective design of the underlying infrastructure creates a consumption-based model that can use multi-session functionality to yield far greater utilisation from virtual machines.

Follow this series to understand more about how AVD can benefit your business and unlock the potential of your users. For more insights on AVD, click here.

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