We have been hearing this for many years now – virtual desktops will replace all else, the year #### will be the year of VDI (replace #### with any year after 2010). Every year this doesn't happen you get a lot of IT people laughing and saying that this will never happen, guess what, they are right! Virtual desktops are great, and we love them at AppDS, but they are not the silver bullet for the challenges of modern/hybrid working. But they can sure help you to expand your modern end user computing capabilities and something you almost certainly need to have in your toolbox.
If they are so great, why aren’t they replacing laptops/desktops/vpn/… ?
We always ask back, why would they? We do not know anyone asking why is MS Word not replacing Visual Studio, right? Virtual desktops provide certain set of capabilities and they do them well, but they do not do absolutely everything. Here is a list of what you can expect if you maintain a virtual desktop environment:
- Lightning-fast deployments. You can get an entire company working remotely within hours or even minutes.
- Ability to work remotely by using cheap hardware (almost any hardware being perfectly accurate) yet having great user experience (read our blog about different cheap thin client options you can use - AppDS - Application Delivery Solutions).
- Flexible support options – no physical hardware to manage means you do not need IT staff in specific locations. You can ship users with a new thin client from anywhere.
- Lower bandwidth requirements – using modern connection protocols like the latest RDP version, Citrix HDX or VMware Blast Extreme allows you to get good user experience where most of the VPN solutions would struggle (not to say that VPN is bad, the whole concept is different, you need to send a lot more data over VPN that you would with modern VDI protocols).
If your organisation has already proven that it has the capability of spinning up the required number of virtual desktops (for example Azure Virtual Desktop) when needed, then you have nothing to fear when it comes large and unplanned work from home exercises like a real DR scenario of a global pandemic just like COVID in 20/21. If you have then, you can send your staff home, spin up Azure Virtual Desktop pools from the images you maintain as code for the different user groups that you need, automatically connect it all to your Microsoft 365 tenancy and you are good to go for majority of your staff. This sounds great, doesn’t it? So, what are the shortcomings of the virtual desktops and why they can’t be used all the time for everyone?
Why virtual desktops are not the answer to everything?
Nothing is ever easy in IT and just when you think virtual desktops can do everything for you and you can decommission your IT kit you will encounter one of the following scenarios.
- Performance requirements – not everyone can work on an 8GB of RAM and 4 vCPU desktop. There are plenty of people doing specific type of work who need a lot more than that, and I mean A LOT. Check how much it costs to run a 128GB of RAM, 32 vCPU and a video card powered machine on Azure (Pricing Calculator | Microsoft Azure) and you will see what we mean. It probably won't work for CAD designers, Architects or anything falling into this large digital compute need.
- Offline work. Despite of the current working conditions, people still need the ability to do their work off the internet. On a plane, train etc. This might not be a huge use case for most people, but it is still something you need to account for and the answer to this is usually a laptop with some style of VPN (even if it is no longer called a VPN!)
- Technical capabilities – running a virtual desktop environment efficiently requires certain skills that your organization might not have. You are likely required to know source control, infrastructure as code and similar concepts and the tools that come with them. Otherwise you are likely to run into issues (not to brag, but we can help! - AppDS - Application Delivery Solutions)
So, what do you suggest we do then?
As always, we suggest doing what is right for your organization. If you run a company that is made up of 90% of travelling salespeople, then you will most likely need a combination of mobile and offline working capabilities. If your users are mostly office-based workers, then a virtual desktop option with some offline capabilities might be right. Whatever you do, you need to make sure that you can switch from one solution to the other at a moment’s notice. Here is the thing, nothing can replace virtual desktops when it comes to spinning up A LOT of them in a short amount of time. We have ready made IaC (Infrastructure as Code) solutions that would allow you to build hundreds or thousands (or more if you need) Azure Virtual Desktops, based on the images that you can also define as code in a matter of minutes. Would it not have been great to have a solution like this at your disposal 18 months ago? Our clients did and they are the ones you did not hear about on the news as not being able to provide services to do the pandemic. Gives us a call and we will tell you all about it!