Windows Virtual Desktop – Why VDI? Why now?

In a previous blog (April 2019) , while Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) was still in Beta, I explored its features and debated the importance of this move by Microsoft into the world of virtual desktop infrastructure. Computacenter has been working with Microsoft and tracking the development of WVD through Public Preview and General Release.  

In this blog I will explain:

  • Why you should be interested in it?
  • What it means to other vendors?
  • How can you know if WVD is right for you?

Why should you be interested in WVD?

From the initial excitement of virtualising desktops, born from the success in the server world, VDI has remained at 10-20% of the desktop estate of large organisations. From the premise of everyone should have one, we now focus on specific use cases where the benefits stack up.  With WVD, Microsoft are focusing on three scenarios:

  • Replace/migrate on-premises virtual desktop deployment

At some point you’re going to need to refresh your existing virtual desktop infrastructure which will be both timely and costly. With many companies boasting a ‘cloud first’ strategy and an ongoing modernisation of application portfolios, migrating those workloads must be considered.

  • New Windows virtualisation

The experience of using and managing virtual desktops has become significantly easier in the last few years, whilst the challenges of effectively maintaining physical desktops is arguably becoming harder. Whether it’s a tactical workload like third party access or something more strategic the ability to pilot and develop on a cloud platform removes a lot of initial investment.

  • Windows 7 end of support

There will be organisations out there whose Windows 10 plans are being hampered by problematic Windows 7 applications. Migrating those workloads to Azure will give you the extended support needed, and so time, to allow that final remediation to take place. From a compliance point of view, it’s certainly a better place to be.

Single versus multi-cloud strategies

The main alternative to desktop virtualisation is giving people a laptop but let’s assume you’ve addressed that and your use cases for virtualisation are defined. If there is a limitation of WVD then it is its dependence on Azure. If that is an issue it’s worth remembering though that WVD is in fact two separate constructs; “broker” and “licensing entitlement”.

As a licensing entitlement you can choose to use Citrix, VMware, or a number of System Integrators offering turn-key DaaS solutions as the broker to those Azure desktops. The advantage, of those, being the ability to run workloads not just in Azure but on-premises and on other public-clouds from a single management plane. This could expand the number of users that could be included within scope. It also means that, perhaps, public cloud becomes your disaster recovery site of choice. Offering constantly refreshed hardware at a fraction of the cost while not powered on.

You also need to consider where your desktops reside based on the applications they need to access. With so many legacy applications hamstrung by latency sensitivity the proximity of the application and the desktop could be paramount to the user experience and, so, success of the project.

Assessing if WVD is right for your organisation

Whether you are new to desktop virtualisation or looking to transform an existing deployment, Computacenter would recommend the following approach

  1. Understand your business requirements and the needs of your users

Ensure you are clear on what WVD can deliver that physical machines can’t and match that to the needs of the business now and in the foreseeable future. Define your user workstyles at a conceptual level and use end user analytics to collect the empirical data that will help you understand which users are a good fit for WVD

  • Use proof of concepts and early user pilots to gain confidence and understanding

One of the most powerful aspects of public cloud is how fast you can be up and running. Test the scenarios you’ve identified and the applications that are in scope to confirm the user experience. Target users to pilot the environment and gain real-world feedback. Positive experiences will help gain momentum in the next phase

  • Build the business case and plan the deployment

Align identified business metrics to the capabilities of WVD. Baseline those metrics and be clear on how you can measure and so show improvement on them. Consider how ongoing application strategies may impact when people can be deployed and where their desktops should be placed.

Microsoft embracing desktop virtualisation is fascinating, and the long-term benefits for everyone must be a positive. Citrix and VMware have been talking about the benefits of public cloud for VDI for a long time, but few large-scale deployments have moved fully to it.  Many on premises VDI deployments were not deployed optimally, I think it’s fair to say, and if you were to do it again you’d probably do it differently. Public cloud forces you to re-visit those decisions both from an operational and a cost point of view. Re-visiting desktop virtualisation also forces you to look at the use cases you are supporting and re-evaluate them. Are you supporting how your users and the business wants to work or making them work in a certain way due to the technologies you’ve implemented?

Desktop virtualisation offers capabilities that physical desktops cannot. Public cloud offers benefits that are hard to achieve on premises. Neither will bring success though if the right users and workloads aren’t identified.

Let Computacenter help you decide if WVD can benefit your organisation.

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About Adam Kelly

Digital Workplace Solution Leader

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