A SIGHT FOR SORE VDIs: AZURE VIRTUAL DESKTOP & AZURE NETAPP FILES
Virtual desktop infrastructures have been around for decades. At first, VDI technology seemed destined to overpromise and underdeliver. Costly, cumbersome, complexified beyond comprehension – what had been promoted as a panacea became better known as a pain in the hindquarters. Then 2020 happened and – lo and behold – the much-doubted and long-derided “Year of VDI” finally arrived. Which means that many businesses are only now confronting the limitations of traditional VDI architectures – and at the worst possible moment.
VDI-aye-yai-yai! The pain is in the panacea
Flashback to 2013. The word of the year is “selfie”. People are eating FroYo like it’s going out of style. Lorde has topped the charts with her single, “Royals”. Vine is still a thing. And multitouch technology on Windows 8 is all the interconnective rage.
Meanwhile, proponents of VDI are touting the untapped benefits of workplace flexibility. They tell us that people can access their own desktops from various locations. That businesses have gained the ability to scale up and down, reducing IT expenses like never before. VDI, we were told, was “game-changing technology”.
Game-changing? More like game over.
Tech historians will disagree on the scale and impact of Forbes’ anti-VDI manifesto. But there’s no question that “Death to VDI” hit a node. The author, one Ben Kepes, derided VDI as a “stupid” technology that “makes little sense” and “solves few actual problems”. After pouring salt on the VDI wound, Kepes added a squeeze of lemon for good measure: “it sucks and totally isn’t worth doing”.
Did it suck in actual fact? It didn’t matter. The damage had been done, and businesses took note of Kepes’ advice. The writing was on the wall, and it said: “VDI is dying, so what now?”
“This is the year of VDI!” – for real this time
Fast-forward to December, 2019. Agendas are being set for the next decade of modern tech. Among the anticipated trends are “automonous things” and “human augmentation”. Is it here that the irony of 2020 hindsight sets in. Nowhere – not a single line in all the predictions forecasted – do the words “VDI infrastructure” make an appearance.
And why would they? The chances of 2020 being the “Year of VDI” seemed about as realistic as getting everyone in Australia to wear face masks in public. Well, here we are, egg and face in perfect alignment.
Suffice it to say, it comes as a total non-shock that “the global virtual desktop infrastructure market is witnessing significant growth”.[i] Most commentators have credited – shall we say – a “must-unsee viral sensation” for VDI’s triumphant return to enterprise prominence.
They’re not entirely wrong. Businesses are rushing their digital transformation projects in a desperate attempt to keep pace with the digital nomad revolution.
Yet the truth of VDI’s comeback is less obvious than it seems. What actually saved this embattled magic bullet from obsolescence was nothing other than the simple, blissless ignorance of a better solution.
What do people talk about when they talk about VDI?
|Windows Virtual Desktop (now Azure Virtual Desktop) & Azure NetApp Files vs. Traditional VDI|
|Licensing – traditional VDI environments have licensing models that include servers and CALs such as Windows 10, M365 and O365, which typically drives up the cost over a native cloud service such as WVD.Scale – in a traditional VDI architecture, you would need to go to an admin who would build a server, install applications and roll out. Typically, this would require about a week of lead time. With WVD and Azure NetApp Files, you can scale up and down on demand in only a few minutes.|
Patches and Maintenance – in a traditional VDI, you likely have discrepancies between patch levels and application levels, along with a high overhead. With WVD everything is automated, and when a Gold image is patched, all the session hosts are torn down and re-deployed so everything is aligned.
Control – typically a VDI portal plan is implemented outside of your services (and outside of your control). With WVD, the service endpoints and gateways are all within your control.
Performance – when WVD is running on Azure NetApp Files, you can manage various levels of service on demand so that you can deliver optimized performance for the applications that need it, when these applications need it. Goodbye spinning disk on screen.
Security – even as people return to workspaces after the pandemic, you will need an environment that can support the most stringent levels of secure access to your sensitive and mission-critical systems based on the data classification. WVD provides that level of control and flexibility from a single control panel.
Consistent User Interface – many enterprise customers still rely on legacy technology, which means they will need to support SMB share or filers to transfer data. Azure NetApp Files enables you to replicate your content from your on-prem to the cloud, but at the same time scale based on user profiles. Everyone sees the same interface from any device, in any location, to minimize frustration and support needs.
So 2020 happened and VDI is no longer a niche. In fact, the ability to access corporate desktops from any location or device has never been more vital. So why, then, do we find so many organisations struggling with the problems that ailed VDI platforms almost a decade ago?
The term is logical conflation. In plain English, logical conflations occur when two distinct concepts or definitions are treated as interchangeable. Why concern ourselves with a fallacy, of all things? The answer is as simple as it is logically sound.
Point blank: an inability to distinguish traditional VDI from its more efficient successor is a costly mistake. It means that many organisations – especially those that are looking to become pandemic-proof – have overlooked the myriad benefits of a modern cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure.
Such confusion leads straightaway to cloud paralysis: a fear of migrating to a modern platform without going overbudget and degrading performance. It’s a fear that has no basis in virtual reality.
A mobile workforce needs an agile infrastructure
Our clients didn’t become “pandemic-proof” by relying on decades-old technologies. Like many organisations, they are replacing traditional VDI architectures with Windows Virtual Desktop (now known as Azure Virtual Desktop) to get all the benefits of VDI without the baggage. Which means they’re also deploying WVD on Microsoft’s most powerful file-storage system: Azure NetApp Files.
Let me pause here to acknowledge that taking an “out with the old, in with the new” approach isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. So you may be wondering: “Precisely what benefits can my organisation expect if we replace our traditional VDI architectures with WVD? What’s so special about deploying WVD on Azure NetApp Files? Should I be worried about that ‘digital nomad revolution’ that was mentioned in passing a minute ago?”
Come with me. It’s time you took a fearless leap into the future of tech.
By Steve Johns