Edge Computing and VDI: A Match Made in IT Heaven

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Click to learn more about author Alan Conboy.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has enjoyed relative steady growth since its introduction in 2006, as it offered key benefits to those that wished to move desktop management from a local environment to a virtualized one.

Initially, from a technology standpoint, a key reason for doing this was the ability to streamline the deployment, management and maintenance of endpoints (i.e., the point at which communication begins and ends; usually the end users’ desktops, laptops and smart handheld devices – basically any hardware that is internet-capable). Of course, the ability to reduce hardware spend and cut the three-year refresh cycle, while gaining flexibility and accessibility were high on the technology benefits list as well.

From a user experience standpoint, a key benefit included the fact that the end user could now obtain the same desktop experience from anywhere – regardless of hardware device. And, security, backup and increased productivity rated high on the user experience benefits list as well.

At first it felt like a no-brainer. The technology looked elegant—especially for the desktop user that wasn’t exposed to the back-end infrastructure. However, in time those who were exposed to it, learned the backend infrastructure was in fact bulky, complicated, and costly. VDI software went hand-in-hand with hefty licensing fees and lock-in to vendor hardware, both of which drove up acquisition prices. Because of this, VDI adoption in large enterprises did not achieve the meteoric adoption rates that were initially anticipated.

However more recently, edge computing and hyperconvergence have disrupted the VDI market. These innovations have opened deployment opportunities to a vastly wider audience. Together, edge computing and VDI have emerged as the perfect pair. Here’s how.

Streamlined Management and Performance

Deploying VDI is easy and practical when utilizing edge computing hyperconvergence solutions, even for small IT teams that support numerous users. There is no longer a need for highly specialized skills, when just an hour or so of training is usually all you need.

Once the VDI has been deployed, software and anti-virus updates for each user can be remotely managed and maintained. The centralization and automation of assorted time-consuming mundane tasks enable IT teams to deal with crises better, should they arise. 

Edge computing systems can also offer integrated and automated disaster recovery (DR) capabilities, including replication, snapshot scheduling, and file-level recovery that help in the recovery of lost files from individual virtual desktops. Edge computing systems can also protect the entire network with self-healing machine learning (ML). 

This centralization and resilience means that IT teams can create a consistent DR plan that maintains in the background, without individual users needing to take any action. This eliminates the previous reliance on employees to update their own anti-virus software or schedule backups of their own data (which let’s face it, is not the norm). For added redundancy, full network backups and snapshots of individual desktop profiles can also be sent over the wider network to either a remote datacenter or a cloud repository.

For end users, a VDI environment also allows them to easily move to a different machine and log back in, should a terminal or other network access point fail; and their profile and data remain undamaged as both reside on the edge computing unit. In addition, a substitute machine can be rapidly configured without having to perform time-consuming data recovery. This ensures an IT infrastructure with much higher availability (HA) and reduced downtime risk, boosting the IT team’s ability to remain focused, responsive and streamlined.

Another benefit of running VDI in an edge environment is that because the machines store and process data at the point of creation, latency and bottleneck issues are virtually eliminated and network performance fully optimized. This is due to the fact that the data doesn’t have to travel all the way back to the central data center, or out to the cloud.

Secure and Agile

A VDI deployment can provide improved workforce agility at an affordable cost, when it runs on a hyperconverged edge computing solution, a VDI deployment can provide improved workforce agility at an affordable cost. Employees can login securely to any machine on the network and gain access to their files, emails and applications—they’re not just limited to PC terminals, but can load their personal desktop or applications on their mobile device or tablet.

Running a VDI deployment in this way also offers a cost-effective and secure method to extend network access beyond the office walls and provide remote access to employees wherever they are. Plus, the IT team can receive automated alerts that flag potentially suspicious activity or log users out of an account that has been inactive for a pre-agreed time.

Generic sign-ins are often used across organizations as an expedient way for employees to access multiple machines, but unfortunately, they also open the door to potential security risks. Whether it is medical professionals accessing patient records or financial institutions handling sensitive personal financial data, in both cases, companies are legally responsible for protecting end-user data. Failure to do so risks reputational damage, regulations noncompliance and legal prosecution. 

VDI, in an edge environment can overcome these potential issues by making it fast and easy for employees to log-in across multiple machines with their own Active Directory credentials. This technology also offers multi-factor authentication to guard against unauthorized access, ensuring organization remain compliant with consumer data protection laws such as HIPAA, GDPR, PCI and California’s Consumer Privacy Act.   

Bring your own device (BYOD) becomes cost effective to manage too, and no longer an issue that raises operational and security concerns. An employee’s personal laptop or mobile smart device can be integrated onto an officially-sanctioned VDI environment. This transforms it from a potential security risk, to a secure, authorized, and monitored network device where information is protected from accidental disclosure and loss. 

Edge Computing – Enabling the True Promise of VDI Technology

When first introduced, VDI was considered by many to be a potential panacea for workforce agility and centralized network management challenges. Overtime, VDI issues came to light, such as high cost, complicated software licensing and weak network connections, and enterprise deployment did not reach its previously predicted potential. However today, with the advent of hyperconverged edge computing’s capabilities, together with the reductions in cost and complexity it innately enables, businesses of all kinds and sizes can finally realize the true promise of VDI technology. 

Thanks to this match made in IT heaven, it’s hardly surprising that VDI has once again risen in popularity and is now predicted to grow from a position of $7.08 Billion in 2016 to $13.45 billion by 2022.

IT teams and end-users can now easily adopt VDI thanks to the added functionality, improvements to network response times, and significant simplification of system management. The ability to create offsite backups at remote locations or in the cloud provides an added layer of IT resilience and security. While automation and centralization capabilities now take care of the most important, but time-consuming, heavy-lifting.

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