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HCI for VDI: A new way to power the distributed workforce

HCI for VDI: A new way to power the distributed workforce

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As workforces are transitioning to more remote working, employers must find solutions which ensure ease and efficiency. Johan Pellicaan, VP and Managing Director EMEA at Scale Computing, discusses how HCI and Edge transform virtual desktop infrastructure and how this contributes to delivering simple scalability and operational efficiency for today’s remote workers.

The events surrounding the recent global pandemic have served to reinforce the need for more flexible computing options for remote workers. With remote working models now set to become the ‘new normal’, organisations are having to rethink their IT operations as they prepare to support a distributed workforce for the indefinite future. For many, this will mean taking a closer look at virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions in order to simplify how they extend secure network access for users working beyond enterprise walls.

The rise of the virtual desktop

When VDI first hit the market back in 2006, it quickly grew in popularity. Providing anywhere access, centralised management and flexible working for users, VDI made it possible for IT organisations to initiate virtual workspaces that could be deployed to workers anywhere – and on any connected device.

The rapid growth in popularity of VDI over the next decade or so was fuelled by a number of other benefits offered by the technology: improved workflows, a single sign-on that enhanced the user experience, hardware savings and the ability to enable and support BYOD programmes.

However, while VDI saved IT teams valuable administrative and support time enabling remote users, the technology was not without its challenges. While virtualisation generated savings over time, the initial implementation required a complex and expensive backend infrastructure and weak network connections impacted the user experience when bandwidth proved a limiting factor. Plus, investing in VDI software often involved some complexities and licensing challenges.

As a consequence, early VDI technologies failed to achieve their projected market potential. But VDI is once again experiencing a surge in demand, as organisations seek out the most flexible and cost-effective way to deploy highly available services to remote users.

HCI and Edge: A technology pairing that transforms VDI

The emergence of Edge Computing in combination with hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) has proved transformative as far as VDI technologies are concerned. Alongside making it more affordable and easier to deploy, the pairing of Edge Computing and HCI with VDI now delivers the simple scalability and operational efficiency that today’s organisations need to provide services for large numbers of remote users. As the number of remote users escalates, remote HCI nodes are simply added to already deployed systems – and can just as easily be rolled back when demand for remote services drops.

Rolling out an HCI- and Edge-powered VDI solution is also proving a highly practical option for small IT teams tasked with supporting large numbers of users for the long term. Requiring no specialist knowledge, other than a few hours of training, together these technologies simplify and automate many of the time-consuming day-to-day tasks that confront IT teams by streamlining and centralising administration.

Designed to be managed from a central interface, IT staff are able to manage and scale everything – compute, storage, networking – as needed from a central console. Making it easy and straightforward to manage software and virus updates, as well as backups, for each user remotely.

The addition of Edge Computing systems to VDI solutions also gives IT teams powerful new integrated and automated disaster recovery (DR) capabilities, such as replication, file-level recovery and snapshot scheduling. Similarly, IT teams can send full network backups and snapshots of individual desktop profiles over wider networks to a cloud repository or remote data centre to strengthen their enterprise BAU strategies. In the event of an unexpected failure at a work access point or terminal, users can immediately move to a different machine and log back in.

Finally, Edge Computing eliminates the latency and bottleneck performance issues previously associated with VDI technologies. This makes it easier for IT teams to maintain and manage growing desktop workloads while assuring the outstanding desktop experience today’s users expect.

Enhanced security at the edge

In addition to providing easy recoverability and higher service availability, today’s modern VDI solutions enable IT teams to enhance the security stance of the extended enterprise while simultaneously boosting workforce agility.

Deploying VDI on a HCI Edge Computing solution will enable remote users to log in, regardless of their location, to access emails, files and applications as usual, using multifactor authentication to guard against unauthorised access. IT teams are able to remotely monitor user profiles, log inactive users out and receive automated alerts on potentially suspicious activity. IT teams can also further enhance data security by keeping sensitive data within the corporate network and not exposing the corporate network to employees’ private networks through VPN connections.

Similarly, by integrating BYODs into the VDI environment, IT teams can provide remote users with the flexibility of accessing their personal desktop profiles from the device of their choice, along with a number of options to ensure that information is better secured from accidental disclosure or loss.

Addressing remote workforce demands

The recent crisis has highlighted the importance of remaining secure and efficient when providing remote work options for enterprise users. The advent of HCI Edge Computing has revolutionised VDI, not only making it easier and more cost-effective to deploy – but also easier to manage and scale out when needed.

As organisations prepare to evaluate the best way to expand and extend their remote working capabilities, today’s HCI-powered VDI solutions offer a highly secure and affordable way to deploy the predictable, yet secure, performance today’s workers will require in the coming months and years.

Many organisations that had previously implemented today’s VDI solutions found themselves better prepared to support their workers remotely when the impact of COVID-19 triggered the public health lockdowns imposed by national governments. As a result, they were able to quickly react to the immediate need of connecting remote users to their existing corporate workstations and scale up fast to cope with enterprise demand.

Ideal for serving remote users without a VPN connection, today’s HCI and Edge-enabled solutions cut through the cost and complexity, so that businesses of all types and sizes can finally realise the true promise of VDI technology.

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