A Candid Conversation about COVID-19, VDI, and Business Continuity | Part II

This is the second part of a two-part series. For Part I, please click here.

As IT leaders continue to work through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, CONVERGED is looking to bring insight and guidance to members. Today we’re sharing part two of a conversation we had with Sunny Arogunmati, VDI Principal Architect with Dell Technologies. In this part, Sunny shares his advice for newcomers to the VDI environment as well as insight for the future of VDI trends.

CONVERGED: What should IT decision makers who do not have a VDI environment understand about adapting to the new work-from-home norm in the midst of this pandemic?

SUNNY AROGUNMATI: First and foremost, IT decision makers need to realize the challenges of remote working post-pandemic and shouldn’t rush into decisions that will last for years to come. If you rush into deploying 10,000 VDI today just because you could, are you still going to need to use that in two or three years? They also need to think about challenges with product availability and lead times. We’re talking about supply chains—everything is coming from China, but if China is shut down for business, we can’t get new laptops or new servers.

Another thing to think about is network bandwidth. VDI requires network bandwidth and capacity; you cannot run VDI on 10 Gbps if you’re talking about thousands of users. You need something more along the lines of 25 Gbps or 40 Gbps. Security threats are another consideration; if the decision is rushed and security isn’t a priority, that could pose a problem. Obviously a lot of people are using Zoom right now for video conferencing, but anyone can join a private meeting if you don’t know how to configure the security settings.

A big consideration is applications. Not all applications are equal. Some can be virtualized in a VDI environment and some cannot. There are homegrown applications that have been working for the past 20 years and the developers want to keep it that way. Does virtualization interfere? At the same time, you have required SaaS applications that are also consuming bandwidth.

There are also a lot of workloads that may or may not require GPUs, especially in the medical field, or oil and gas. GPUs are becoming cheaper, but they’re still not cheap. When you compare them to the workstations, those aren’t cheap either. In a VDI environment, I can cut that down to a fourth of the cost.

Support services are something else to consider. If you’re going to VDI and your employees are working from home, how are your IT staff going to support your IT environment from home?

CONVERGED: Do any VDI use cases come to mind that could provide reassurance to customers in this time?

AROGUNMATI: All VDI use cases do provide reassurances to the customer one way or another. We have use cases for high graphical-intensive apps in the medical industry or manufacturing or oil and gas, where a customer needs to replace highly graphical workstations to allow the designers to work from home. Then at the low end, we have what’s called a shared desktop solution, which will scale to hundreds of users’ sessions on a single server. For example, a school system blocks unnecessary functions to only allow access to what’s most important, which means a lot of students are only using the school’s network to do what they need to get done for an assignment. It’s easier and cheaper for a school system to go the shared solution route.

If you look at the industry as a whole—the buzzwords in the IT industry at the beginning used to be about the cloud. If you have a 5-minute presentation and you don’t mention the cloud, people think you don’t know what you’re talking about. Then in the last few years, everything was about analytics. Let’s fast-forward: what’s going to happen in the next year or two? We could be hearing more about working from home. You may see a lot of work-from-home technologies popping up. All of a sudden, VDI is going to be at the forefront.

CONVERGED: So you see this as a much longer, sustained trend like all of the other buzzwords you’ve been hearing rather than just something that’s going to get us through this pandemic?

AROGUNMATI: Yes, but just like I said before, we’re good at solving yesterday’s problem. Once this is over, working from home becomes yesterday’s problem that everyone wants to spend time and resources on. They’re thinking about what they can do in case this happens again so they’re not caught with their pants down, and they’re investing in IT solutions accordingly.

A lot of these corporations are run by the old guards who want to see their employees working physically in the office. They think, “if I let them go home, who’s going to monitor what they’re doing?” In the new era, though, it’s all based on deliverables. As long as I’m making my deliverables, does it matter if I do it at 2am or 2pm? Does it matter if I’m working in the office or at a coffee shop? You’re going to see the trend of work-from-home discussed more and more, especially when you consider the benefits of higher employee productivity and smaller real estate costs.

CONVERGED: We’ve got VDI solving yesterday’s problems. Is there a way that VDI can also solve tomorrow’s unforeseen problems?

AROGUNMATI: VDI has always been solving problems, whether it’s yesterday’s, today’s, or tomorrow’s. I call VDI “the phoenix” because every time I’ve been told that VDI is dead, it keeps coming back. We’re talking about high server workloads and VDI rarely comes up as a high workload, but with COVID-19, you can’t access the other workloads from home without VDI. If you have 10,000 desktops sitting in a 10-story building that is locked down, how do you maintain productivity? VDI is the answer.

After this is over, one VDI challenge I think will stick around is telemedicine. I heard about telemedicine about 5 years ago—it never really gained momentum until now. Now, you’re going to see more family doctors and general practitioners shifting to telemedicine so they can address their patients’ symptoms without needing to see them in the office for something simple.

It’s a similar challenge with the entertainment and media industry; you think about local news stations that don’t have as big of a production budget as the bigger cable networks, but they’re still managing to deliver the important news we all need even though all of the reporters are in their own homes. It took a couple weeks for them to figure out how to maintain production quality – at first it seemed like a lot of them were only using the cameras on their laptops – but I think this is a scenario that will impact a lot of our media consumption moving forward. When news can be delivered from anywhere, the reporting opportunities become limitless.

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